Collaborative research

Potential areas for collaborative research

The following list of hypothesis are supported and are yet to be comprehensively reviewed or trialled:

  • Nature-contact and nature-based interventions offer a cost-effective health solution across the continuum of need.
  • Nature-based health interventions offer bio-psycho-socio-ecological healthcare.
  • Applied in infancy, childhood and early adulthood, nature-contact and nature-based interventions could help to reduce the significant costs of providing downstream primary and mental health treatments.
  • Nature-contact and nature-based interventions could help to reduce the significant fiscal burden of providing healthcare to aging populations.
  • Nature-based interventions complement conventional treatments.
  • Nature-based interventions may provide effective standalone treatment for a range of difficulties, disadvantages, disconnections and ailments.
  • Practitioners and workforces may experience spin-off health benefits from delivering nature-based health interventions.
  • Natural environments may experience spin-off benefits from the delivery of nature-based human health interventions in natural settings.

Outdoor Health Literature Review – Due to be Completed Oct 2021

Following on from successful hosting of the “Nature & Health Online Symposium 2020”, AABAT’s Outdoor Healthcare Policy Unit supported Deakin University Masters of Social Work student Josh McClean to complete a substantial literature review on the ‘Common Elements’ that underlie the diverse range of evidence-informed nature-based health practices. The Final Report of this review is due to be published in 2o21. Josh McClean’s ‘Common Elements’ project was guided by the following premises:

Throughout the world, Indigenous and place-based peoples have known that nature and natural environments are not just a foundation for life and health, but also a resource to draw on when health is ailing. 

In recent times, we’ve seen the emergence of a range of services that mobilise ‘human contact with nature’ as a form of healthcare to treat physical-, mental- and social ill health. 

Nature-based services currently support health and wellbeing for people experiencing wide ranging health issues, and people of all ages. As well as supporting wellbeing, these services provide amelioration and healing through the provision of therapy, recovery, rehabilitation, treatment, and palliative care. From existing bodies of cross-disciplinary research, these services can now draw on evidence to inform their design and delivery of health services.

This project sets out to identify the ways human contact with nature is currently used as healthcare for people across the lifespan. The focus is on health interventions that use nature-contact as a key therapeutic mechanism. The project reviewed existing research relating to uses of nature-contact across the spectrum of need, from prevention through early intervention, treatment, continuing care and palliative care, and identified benefits across physical, psychological, socio-cultural and environmental domains of wellbeing. 

The review addresses the question, “What are the human health and wellbeing benefits arising from nature-based health interventions?” and provides a taxonomy of nature-based interventions, along with a set of recommendations for a ‘common elements approach’ to providing safe and effective nature-based health interventions. 

While the review includes investigation of nature-based services provided by trained or experienced practitioners, it does not include the range of physical or mental health medicines and remedies drawn from plants and animals. 

The project focused on Australian and international literature published since 2000, and where possible, investigated the purpose, evidence base, effects and effectiveness of nature-based services being used for healthcare. 

While there is already strong research justification for the use of parks and natural places as settings for health – places to enhance the health and wellbeing of community members – this review extends current knowledge to identify uses of parks as settings for healthcare.

Maller, C. Townsend, M., Pryor, A., Brown, P. & St Leger, L. (2006). Healthy nature healthy people: ‘Contact with nature’ as an upstream health promotion intervention for populations. Health Promotion International. Oxford University Press, 2006 21:45-54.

Pryor, A., Townsend, M., Maller, C. & Field, K. 2006. ‘Health and well-being naturally: ‘contact with nature’ in health promotion for targeted individuals, communities and populations’. Health Promotion Journal of Australia 17(2)114-123. 

To compliment McLean’s ‘Common Elements’ literature review, AABAT’s Outdoor Healthcare Policy Unit are hosting two Deakin University Masters of Social Work students in 2021 who will be supported to complete a companion ‘Stories of Outdoor Health Practices’ project, with input from Dr Cathryn Carpenter. Stay tuned for a Final Report in early 2022.