Outdoor Health National Symposium 2021
Outdoor Health – A Natural Necessity
As governments and policy-makers grapple with new challenges, and the Australian community adapts to new realities, Outdoor Healthcare provides promising cost-effective benefits for our physical, mental, social and cultural health.
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Outdoor Healthcare is the term we use to encompass the range of evidence-informed nature-based health interventions being provided around Australia and internationally. Outdoor healthcare research draws from a breadth of cross-disciplinary evidence bases. Outdoor healthcare practices activate ‘human contact with nature’ as an intentional setting, method or mechanism to support human health, wellbeing and healing. With guidance from Aboriginal and First nations knowledge holders, Outdoor healthcare can benefit the health of natural environments along side the health of people. Natural environments are often called ‘Country’ in Australia, in acknowledgement of the long and strong custodianship of land and sea by Aboriginal people.
The Australian Association for Bush Adventure Therapy (AABAT) developed the term Outdoor Healthcare in consultation with Federal and State government representatives and a range of professionals from the sector prior to hosting the Eighth International Adventure Therapy Conference in 2018.
Since that time, AABAT has established an Outdoor healthcare Policy Unit tasked with engaging with government so that more people may benefit from evidence-informed nature-based health practices. This has led to work by the policy unit to consolidate BAT as an evidence-informed health and wellbeing intervention, and the desire to connect with proponents of other nature-based health modalities, and national bodies.
For more information on AABAT see: https://aabat.org.au/
For more information on the 8IATC see: https://8iatc.internationaladventuretherapy.org/
The following list of statements is drawn from extensive research evidence, and arguably well accepted by human-nature researchers:
- Humans are part of nature and are nature.
- Healthy natural environments are critical to human health and wellbeing.
- Indigenous communities and other place-based cultures managed to sustain both humans and natural environments concurrently, in some cases for millenia.
- The urbanisation of many societies, and associated developments, means that many people are more separated from nature and natural environments than at any other time in human history.
- Contact with nature, and time spent in nature, provides multiple benefits for humans.
- Nature and nature-based interventions offer an accessible place to strengthen and revitalise human health and wellbeing.
- Nature-contact offers a preventive approach that can help to sustain the health and wellbeing of whole populations.
- Nature-contact and nature-based interventions can strengthen the health of disadvantaged people and those at risk of health difficulties.
- Nature-contact and nature-based interventions can support those people whose health is ailing and who are in need of treatment and support.
While the full scope and effects of nature-based interventions are yet to be synthesised, preliminary research demonstrates it is likely that nature-based interventions:
- can be used to support the health of humans across the lifespan, from infancy through childhood, and young adulthood to older adulthood
- can be used across the continuum of need, from prevention through early intervention, treatment or therapy, continuing care and palliative care
- can provide benefits across physical, mental, emotional, social, cultural, spiritual and ecological domains of human wellbeing
- can strengthen peoples’ bio-psycho-socio-ecological wellbeing
- can be delivered to individuals, couples, families, communities, peer groups and other target groups, and
- can provide effective treatment for people recovering from the effects of early life trauma or traumatic events, along with other targeted interventions, such as for those struggling with drug and alcohol misuse, mental ill health, a range of disabilities and relationship difficulties, to name a few examples.