This week Public Health England published a new report – Improving Access to Greenspace – A new review for 2020.
We know that access to good quality green space has a range of benefits from improving community cohesion to vastly improving our health and wellbeing (including reducing health inequalities), as well as contributing to improving air quality and mitigating climate change. As natural capital account methodology and tools have evolved local government can now start to quantify the real value of the many and varied benefits that their green assets/estates deliver.
Evidence shows that disadvantaged groups appear to gain a larger health benefit and have reduced socioeconomic-related inequalities in health when living in greener communities, so greenspace and a greener urban environment can also be used as an important tool in the drive to build a fairer society; yet we know access to greenspace is not equitable, especially as urban areas expand and greenspace is under increasing pressure.
This report is intended to assist local authorities (especially public health teams) make the case for maintaining and increasing the provision of (and equitable access to) greenspace and growing the wider network of green infrastructure, especially through the planning system.
The value of our parks and greenspaces has been much highlighted during the pandemic, so we applaud the timely publication of this report and hope that local authority decision makers will read and implement the recommendations of the report, to take a joined-up approach between planning, health, leisure and other services.
Further, we encourage local authorities, friends of parks groups and other stakeholders to use the Health Parks Audit, it will show the current health status of their parks and identify improvements and new opportunities to maximise health and well-being. It shows how parks can be used to promote good mental and physical health and support social engagement. Councils and others can access the full green space audit for free until the end of October 2020, more details can be found here.
Other links that may be of interest are Health Equity in England – The Marmot Review 10 Years On. In 2010 in Sir Micheal Marmot’s original report – Fair Society Healthy Lives, looked at the impact of social factors such as poverty on health, showing social inequalities directly relate to health inequalities..