The COVID-19 pandemic has shed new light on how we relate to natural environments: green spaces provided respite during lockdown; difficulties travelling abroad has meant many people are spending more time exploring the British outdoors; demand is surging for houses with outdoor space. The pandemic has made many people more aware of the importance of green spaces in supporting our wellbeing and has also highlighted existing inequalities in access to nature.
Prior to the crisis, research from Natural England has shown that if everyone in England has equal access to good green space, the NHS could save over £2 billion in treatment costs. The Government’s recent announcement to scale-up green social prescribing pilots services has shown a recognition of the positive impact that access to green spaces can have on wellbeing.
What does the evidence tell us about how people’s engagement with the natural environment has changed since the pandemic? What role can initiatives such as green prescribing play in improving health and wellbeing, and reducing health inequalities? Will ‘green prescriptions’ become the new norm?
As part of the SMF’s Ask the Expert series, held in partnership with UK Research and Innovation, our panel of experts sought to answer some of these questions. At the event, UCL Associate Professor of Psychobiology & Epidemiology, Dr Daisy Fancourt presented data from the ‘COVID-19 Social Study‘ – a longitudinal study into the psychological and social impact of the pandemic in the UK.
Dr Daisy Fancourt, Associate Professor of Psychobiology & Epidemiology, UCL & Leader of the COVID-19 Social Study.
Graham Duxbury, Chief Executive, Groundwork UK
Carl Petrokofsky, Public Health Specialist Advisor – Healthy Places team, Public Health England
James Kirkup, Director, Social Market Foundation (Chair)
Our Ask the Expert series, in association with UK Research and Innovation, brings academic research on public policy into the heart of Westminster.