Several sites in England will receive funds to test ways in which connecting with nature can improve mental wellbeing.
Announced by Environment Minister Rebecca Paw, a £5.77 million will be split between seven new 'test and learn' sites across the country, with a particular focus on communities hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Such areas could include deprived communities, areas with high rates of adverse mental health cases, or areas with large BAME communities.
The funding comes at a time when the nation has become more aware of the benefits of green spaces for mental wellbeing, following months of lockdown and, for many, isolation.
In fact, recent government research indicates that half of the country's population is now spending more time outdoors than prior to the pandemic, while a survey from Forest Research showed that the majority of adults experienced an increase in their happiness when in nature.
It is a relationship that research has long supported, as indicated by a post on the government's own Public Health Matters blog in 2016.
However, this increased appreciation for green spaces has also highlighted the disparity between communities when it comes to accessing them.
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The new sites will explore opportunities to encourage engagement between communities and the natural environment, from walking and cycling to community gardening and food-growing projects.
For people who need help to get involved in such activities, supported visits to outdoor spaces could help ensure they reap the benefits of these efforts too.
The seven sites are:
Humber Coast and Vale Health and Care Partnership
South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw Integrated Care System
Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Integrated Care System
Joined Up Care Derbyshire Sustainability and Transformation Partnership
Greater Manchester Health & Social Care Partnership
Surrey Heartlands Health and Care Partnership
Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Sustainability and Transformation Partnership
"Many of us have seen first-hand during this difficult time the benefit that connecting with nature can have on our health and mental wellbeing, and I am delighted to announce the first sites for this inspiring scheme which will improve people’s access to and engagement with nature and green spaces," said Paw.
"As we build back better and greener from the pandemic, we are looking forward to working closely with these sites to deliver an enhanced green social prescribing offer which will deliver real benefits for individuals across the country."
The sites will run for over two years and, if successful, more sites will be rolled out across the country.