Proposed Literature Review

AABAT’s Policy Unit is seeking Expressions of interest to contribute expertise, time and money to the development of a substantial literature review and published report. A draft overview for the proposed report is offered below as a way of sharing our hopes for the project. Please get in touch if you’d like to contribute.   

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.