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– View our new Outdoor Healthcare Service Directory – 

Set to launch on 24th November

Outdoor Healthcare Round Table

It’s been a few months since the “Nature & Health” Online Symposium, and we’re keen to reconnect! We hope you can  join us for our FREE whole-day Online Outdoor Health Roundtable. 

Hear from our guest speakers Emeritus Professor Judy Atkinson, Dr Kaye Richards (UK) & Professor Mike Gass (USA) as well as updates on the progress of the outdoor healthcare roundtable working group.

Find out more…

Outdoor Healthcare is being trialled as a term to encompass the range of evidence-informed health interventions that mobilise ‘human contact with nature’ as an intentional setting, method or mechanism to support human health, wellbeing and healing.

Background

The Australian Association for Bush Adventure Therapy (AABAT) developed the term Outdoor Healthcare in consultation with a range of professionals from the sector and Federal and State government representatives  prior to hosting the Eighth International Adventure Therapy Conference in 2018. 

Since that time, AABAT has established a policy unit tasked with engaging with government so that more people may benefit from BAT and broader healthcare in the outdoors. 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 and unite with other nature-based health modalities. 

For more information on AABAT see: https://aabat.org.au/

For more information on the 8IATC see: https://8iatc.internationaladventuretherapy.org/

Purpose

There exists a strong and growing body of research that unequivocally identifies nature-contact as beneficial for human health and healing. This compliments the large evidence base behind guided therapy in the outdoors. Given this evidence, it is not surprising that wide-ranging health practitioners, organisations and sectors are embracing and applying the known benefits of nature-contact.

While different nature-based interventions may be quite distinct in terms of application, target group and addressed need, they often draw on the same body of human-nature research evidence.

For AABAT, the increasing prevalence of health practices, interventions and methodologies that draw from this rich human-nature evidence provide the imperative for us to come together, and work together, to strengthen the effectiveness of our collective work.

Underlying premises

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.

 

 

Scope

AABAT proposes that Outdoor Healthcare include health practices, interventions and methodologies that both draw from, and contribute to, the extensive body of existing human-nature health research.

Examples of well established nature-based interventions include Ecotherapy, Equine Therapy and Horticultural Therapy. Furthermore, a range of evidence-based psychotherapeutic approaches, such as Narrative therapy and trauma-focused CBT, have been used within nature-based interventions. According to theoretical and empirical research, proponents of these modalities have adapted their approaches for wide-ranging target groups to great effect.

Bush Adventure Therapy (BAT) is an evidence-informed nature-based health intervention that tends to mobilise the known benefits of four mechanisms of change to achieve therapeutic outcomes for those involved: 1. nature-contact, 2. social relationships, 3. physical activity, and 4. psychological care. Understood internationally as ‘adventure therapy’, BAT is currently applied in the Australian context with youth for mental health treatment, with women and children survivors of family violence, with Aboriginal men for health, with young people in out of home care for resilience, and as psychological care for police officers who are displaying early signs of trauma, to name a few examples (see aabat.org.au for more information). 

Further examples of nature-contact being mobilised for human health and wellbeing include the emerging practice by General Practitioners of prescribing nature-contact for patients, the emerging practice of qualified counsellors taking clients out-of-doors for therapy, and the greening of curriculum and practices within psychology and social work.

Activities such as Forest Bathing and Nature-based Mindfulness, along with research in the area of Therapeutic Landscapes provide additional perspectives and deepen the existing human-nature evidence base.

AABAT recognises that this list of nature-based health interventions is far from comprehensive.

Promising evidence 

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.

 

Aspirations 

AABAT is trialling use of the term Outdoor Healthcare as a way of connecting with other nature-based health providers. If others find it useful to collaborate, AABAT will commit to working democratically and deliberately to strengthen our collective efforts in support of human health and the health of natural environments.  

While both the term and the working definition will likely be refined over time, we offer these as a starting point. Our vision is to connect with proponents of other nature-based health modalities who see merit in coming together, and who may choose to form a coherent sector or representative body in collaboration with AABAT.

AABAT’s policy unit has identified the following list of aspirations, to be refined with collaborating partners over time: 

  1. Link with existing nature-based health providers, including practitioners, organisations, communities of practice, networks, forums, associations and representative bodies – please feel free to share this webpage with others, and invite them to connect. 
  2. Provide a forum for nature-based researchers, practitioners, managers and policy makers in order to share knowledge, resources and goals – see the “Nature & Health – Research, Practice and Policy Symposium 2020”. 
  3. Develop a research alliance to support a systematic literature review and taxonomy of nature-based health interventions – see the Proposed Literature Review, and please contact us if you wish to get involved. 
  4. Explore the merits of establishing a national representative body prepared to lobby the government for policies and programs that reflect the benefits of ‘Nature for health’ – see the “Nature & Health – Research, Practice and Policy Symposium 2020”. 
  5. Seek funding for research, intervention trials, quality assurance, training, accreditation and human-nature research in the service of human-nature health and wellbeing.
  6. Advocate for government-funded trials to support the translation of human-nature research into nature-based practices and health interventions.
  7. Establish a legitimate role for nature-based health interventions within the medical health landscape, and build understanding across all levels of government about the affordability, accessibility and efficacy of nature-based interventions.