“…parks can reduce crime, foster psychological well-being, reduce stress, boost immunity, enhance productivity and promote healing…there is a clear message for park managers to join public health fora, as not only do parks protect the essential systems of life and biodiversity, but they also are a fundamental setting for health promotion and the creation of wellbeing that to date has not been fully recognised.”
We know that parks conserve nature and biodiversity, protect natural processes and natural features, store carbon, provide clean air and water, support primary industries, support science and learning, underpin tourism, provide outdoor recreation settings, preserve culture and heritage and act as sources of inspiration, excitement, refreshment, relaxation and solitude
Less well known are the benefits that parks provide to human health.In 2000 Parks Victoria launched its Healthy Parks Healthy People program, which it used to brand activities and events in parks to encourage people to visit, to inspire them to play a role in their care and to provide 'healthy' places for body mind and soul. The clear and simple slogan implies that the environmental health of parks results in a healthy community and that spending active recreation time in a well cared for park environment leads to greater health and fitness of both individuals and society. The program has forged partnerships with several peak health bodies; alliances with the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, Arthritis Victoria, Asthma Victoria and the Heart Foundation give extra credibility to the campaign by legitimising the link between a healthy park system and a healthy society through the imprimatur of the medical profession.
Since its launch, Parks Victoria has developed a comprehensive integrated Healthy Parks Healthy People program which it has made available to other park management agencies globally. Agencies in Australia, New Zealand, UK, USA and Canada have adopted the program. Further work has broadened the scope of the program to include recognition of other social and economic benefits of parks which may have appeal to broader constituencies.
For example, recent discussions with the World Health Organisation have led to the possible development of a joint research program on the health benefits of parks.
The IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas objectives propose inter alia to provide advice to governments and others about the integration of protected areas into all sectors, enhance the level of investment in protected areas and protected area systems by persuading public and corporate donors of the value of protected areas and enhance the capacity of WCPA members through co-operative ventures with partners. Pursuit of these objectives is incorporated in the WCPA priorities for 2009-2012, in particular by promoting the values of protected areas to human well-being and livelihoods.
There is a clear synergism developing between the Healthy Parks Healthy People program and WCPA’s strategic direction. This synergy could best be developed through a taskforce dedicated to developing relationships between park agencies and other sectors, producing tools for use by park managers to promote the benefits of parks in their communities, seeking resources to manage parks to optimise these benefits and for developing services to encourage visitors, neighbours, tourists and other stakeholders to use parks wisely. In line with this more symbiotic approach to service delivery, park agencies can reposition themselves as providers of services with deep societal benefits rather than just as custodians of natural values, reshaping the role of parks in the community and their value to society.
In 2008 IUCN and WCPA supported a Parks Forum initiative in production of the “Value of Parks” report for urban and protected area parks in Australia and New Zealand. This report significantly extended the thinking regarding the role of parks in society.
At the World Conservation Congress in Barcelona, IUCN auspiced a special Healthy Parks Healthy People workshop featuring presentations from Australia, Canada and England. A wider discussion following the workshop endorsed recognition of the benefits to human physical and mental health provided by the natural environment in general and protected areas in particular.
Further, the establishment of a WCPA Healthy Parks Healthy People Taskforce received widespread endorsement.
- Provide guidance to the WCPA, IUCN and others, on the relationships between human health, community well-being, economic prosperity and protected areas.
- Strengthen the ability of the global protected area network to establish collaborative relationships with other park agencies and managers, particularly urban parks
- Establish alliances with government and non-government sectors to progress research and development of the links between parks, society and economies and to demonstrate these benefits.
- Advocate the Healthy Parks, Healthy People concept beyond WCPA/IUCN networks to create broader alliances between sectors to support the management of parks and protected areas for the benefit of society.
Statement of expected outputs
- A communication plan to:
- promote the message
- establish an information exchange network using web based tools
- encourage collaborative relationships;
- A research program engaging the parks and protected area network in partnership with the health and financial sectors;
- A series of best practice case studies demonstrating the values of parks in different cultural and environmental settings;
- A series of guidelines for park managers incorporating the theory and practice of park management for human benefit;
- A program of collaborative relationships providing opportunities for park managers to work with other sectors to provide Healthy Parks Healthy People services;
- A successful Healthy Parks Healthy People Congress in Melbourne in 2010 with input to the World Conservation Congress 2012 and World Parks Congress 2014.