”For all Nature is doing her best each moment to make us well. (…) Why, ”nature” is but another name for health.”
– Henry David Thoreau, Journal 23 August 1853
In this quotation, Thoreau describes a correlation that most likely everybody knows: the salubrious pleasure we experience when being outside and being one with nature. The beneficial effect of nature on health and wellbeing has been scientifically proven by numerous studies. Nonetheless, so far nature’s curativeness has been underexploited. So what can be done to increase the use of nature’s benefits on health? How can nature be implemented more extensively into preventive and acute healthcare? How can it be integrated more prominently into the promotion of health and wellbeing?
These were the questions that led to the development of the NatureHEALTH micro project. For the following eight months, this Finnish-Russian Karelia based project aims to generate the needed evidence and knowledge to answer the afore-mentioned questions and to outline an expedient plan of future actions so that nature can be incorporated more comprehensively as a tool to improve people’s living and working environment.
The results of NatureHEALTH will facilitate a realistic understanding of how to carry out a successful development project that increases the use of nature in the promotion of health and wellbeing. Furthermore, the collected data will serve as an excellent scientific base for future activities or research and development. NatureHEALTH also strives to determine crucial target groups that would benefit from and/or help implementing the use of nature for the promotion of health and wellbeing effectively in the future.
Nowadays, non-communicable diseases form a central public health problem of global proportion and have become the leading cause of premature mortality worldwide. Counteractively, the prevention of many diseases has been greatly improved during the last decades by influencing some well-known risk factors. However, not all risk factors for non-communicable diseases have yet been determined and the rate of new cases of certain diseases are still on the rise.
The risk of contracting non-communicable diseases has been increasingly linked with people’s living environment and its biodiversity. Especially urban lifestyle and the urban environment itself are suspected of influencing the human microbial and immune system in a harmful way. It is assumed that the insufficient exposure to microbiota in people’s living environment might be the cause of immunological imbalance and minor inflammation in the body which in turn can increase the risk of becoming diseased.
Nature, as opposed to this, has in numerous studies proven to be greatly beneficial to people’s health and wellbeing. It acts both preventively and curatively by positively affecting people’s mental and physical status. Furthermore, studies revealed a correlation of the amount of green spaces and people’s morbidity and mortality. According to this knowledge, the NatureHEALTH micro project was developed with the aim to generate the needed understanding to design a practical plan of action for the incorporation of nature as a significant tool for the promotion of health and wellbeing.
The Project Partners
NatureHEALTH is a Finnish-Russian Karelia based micro project that focuses on the link between people and their living environment particularly investigating the positive influence of nature on health and wellbeing. This eight months long project is implemented by the lead partner North Karelia Public Health Association (North Karelia Center of Public Health; FIN), and the three partners Parks & Wildlife Finland (Metsähallituksen Luontopalvelut; FIN), the Charitable Foundation “Health of Karelia” (RUS) and the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Karelia (RUS).
The Project’s Implementation, its Anticipated Outcome and Budget
While it is scientifically proven that nature benefits health and wellbeing, so far only little use has been made of this knowledge in regard to practically implementing nature into preventive or acute healthcare. This project aims to generate the needed evidence and knowledge in order to improve people’s living and working environment by incorporating nature. In order to formulate an expedient plan of future actions, four project-relevant target groups have been identified:
- scientific publications produced by researchers and experts
- decision-makers and civil servants (especially those concerned with health-promoting decisions)
- random samples of ordinary citizens and focus group individuals
- nature-based and ecosystem service providers
Each target group will be the key element of at least one of the project activities that were especially tailored to them:
- Collecting scientific research data about the connection between nature and health
- Interviewing pivotal civil servants in Joensuu and Petrozavodsk in order to document
a) their attitudes towards the development of green spaces in their cities
b) their possibilities to realize the development of green spaces in their cities
- Interviewing focus group individuals as well as random citizens to determine
a) their knowledge about the connection between nature, health and wellbeing
b) their willingness to utilize nature for the improvement of health and wellbeing
- Investigating nature-based and ecosystem service producers of the public and the private sector in North Karelia and the Republic of Karelia and assessing their willingness to develop a supply of nature and health services
These activities will result in four detailed reports, one on each of the key elements. These reports will facilitate the incorporation of nature into health and wellbeing promoting future developments/progression of people’s living and working environment. Moreover, the reports can function as a database for further research on the matter. NatureHEALTH also strives to determine crucial target groups that would benefit from and/or help implementing the use of nature for the promotion of health and wellbeing effectively in the future.
The implementation of this micro project is budgeted at 49 990 €.
North Karelia Center for Public Health
Siltakatu 10 A 16, FI-80100 Joensuu
+358 50 579 0604
Parks & Wildlife Finland
Urheilukatu 3 A, FI-81700 Lieksa
recreational amenity specialist
+358 40 027 2833
Charitable Foundation "Health of Karelia"
Gogolya st., 1, Republic of Karelia, Petrozavodsk
+7 953 528 2161
Ministry of Health of the Republic of Karelia
Lenin st., 6, 185660 Petrozavodsk
+7 911 401 1589