Prescribing nature for human health
The past few decades have been a large global increase in the incidence of non- communicable diseases (NCDs), including cardiovascular, respiratory, and mental illnesses. These conditions now account for more than 50% of annual deaths worldwide (WHO 2021: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/noncommunicable-diseases ).
Alongside the rise in these NCDs, there has also been a large emerging scientific evidence-base to demonstrate that communities and individuals who live or work closer to green spaces in cities, tend to have much lower incidences of these diseases, even when considering other socio-economic and cultural factors. To understand why this is the case, what kinds of nature are needed, and the length and type of interaction, has led to a whole new research field focused on examining which interactions with our senses (sight, smell, sound, and touch) lead to positive health outcomes and why.
This talk will present an overview of some of these studies, examining evidence for the interactions with nature that bring about hormonal responses and changes to nervous and immune systems that induce physiological and psychological calming, pain relief, alleviation of tiredness, and regulation of natural killer cell activity (which play a major role in the host-rejection of virally infected cells and cancer tumours). It will then go on to ask if we are now at a point where we can actually start to prescribe a dose of nature as a treatment, and if so, what aspect of nature, at what dosage, and how should it be administered? Finally, it will discuss the few examples where the efficacy of prescribing nature compared to more traditional biochemical-based drugs has been examined and ask what is the future scope of nature-based medicine?
Watch recording (external site)