It is widely recognised that many of the underlying determinants of inequalities in health and well-being are environmental, and that there is an association between health and access to green spaces. However, the relationships between quality and extent of green space, proximity to and use of such areas, and health outcomes, have yet to be quantified appropriately and the underlying mechanisms remain poorly understood. Public policy and programmes such as the strategic objectives of the Scottish Government of a Greener (i.e. “improve Scotland’s natural and built environment and the sustainable use …”), and Healthier (i.e. “help people to sustain and improve their health, especially in disadvantaged communities …”) Scotland, seek to deliver improvements in people’s surroundings and the environment. Such objectives include policies relating to sustainable development (i.e. ‘Choosing our Future - Scotland’s Sustainable Development Strategy), biodiversity (i.e. the strategy for enhancement and biodiversity in Scotland), rural development, and mental health and well-being. However, gaps exist in the evidence base, and tools and indicators are inadequate at present to support the targeting of measures and linking of policies across rural and urban areas.
The proposed research aims to test the importance of factors associated with public and individual perceptions, and actual measures, of the environment, and measures of its character, directly related to people’s health and well-being. These tests will inform assessments of the effects of land and environmental management policies on the provision of environments that are conducive to good public health and well-being and the role that quality can play in the benefits of green spaces.
Research outputs will include:
a) guidelines on measures to target the provision of green and open spaces (as described in PAN653) to support public health and well-being in rural and urban areas
b) indicators of health and well-being with respect to environmental characteristics
c) geographic databases and analysis tools.
These outputs will be supported by mechanisms for Knowledge Exchange (KE) between stakeholders and the public, by raising community awareness of links between management for green/open space and public health and well-being, and capabilities for public participation in community planning.
OPENspace Research Centre, Edinburgh College of Art, in collaboration with the Macaulay Land Use Research Institute (now the James Hutton Institute) and the University of Glasgow, has been awarded a Scottish Government grant from the Rural and Environment Research and Analysis Directorate (RERAD) (now RESAS, the Rural and Environment Science and Analytical Services), as part of the Scottish Government's Environment and Human Health (EHH) Initiative. The project will research the relationship between the quality, quantity and accessibility of green space and people’s health and wellbeing.
The research aims to test the importance of factors associated with public and individual perceptions of their environment, the actual measure of the environment and measures of its character, as they are directly related to people’s health and wellbeing. These tests will inform assessments of the effects of land and environmental management policies on the provision of environments that are conducive to good public health and wellbeing and the role that quality can play in the benefits that arise from having access to green spaces.
The project has been conducted over 4 years with funding worth just over £1m of which OPENspace will receive £212,000.