Green Health Routes

The Centre for Sustainable Healthcare promotes the crossover between people’s health and the environment. An important part of this is promoting the health benefits of being in a natural environment.  Our Green Health Route Programme supports communities to connect with parks, gardens and forests in their local area to experience the health benefits of nature.

We work with healthcare practitioners to develop routes  to support patients to use local green spaces as an integral part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and often recommend their use as part of a green prescription. Medical research from around the world demonstrates that a 'Green Prescription' can deliver physiological and psychological benefits for patients. The evidence also shows that doctors are ready and willing to give 'Green Prescriptions' to their patients, and we encourage this as part of the new emphasis on social prescribing.

How do we do it?

The Centre for Sustainable Healthcare promotes the benefits of using local green space and increasing access to green spaces for health by engaging with GPs and the wider community.  We work to increase access to, and use of, green space in a variety of ways:

  • Set up health routes through local green spaces 
  • Provide resources and training to accompany the routes that can be used by local people and GPs
  • Run activities to engage schools, care homes, healthcare practices and community centres

We work directly with GP practices, healthcare professionals as well as with park and outdoors departments in councils. If you, or someone you know, are interested in hosting a walk, or in finding out more, get in touch!  You can also download our brochure on how to get involved here:  PDF icon green_helath_route_programme_by_the_nhs_forest_1.pdf

We have set up and run Green Health routes  in a whole range of different neighbourhoods. Here are some examples:

Marston, which is just outside the centre of Oxford, has many green spaces, parks, cycle paths and walks. The health route here highlights local greenspace and is easy to follow thanks to waymarker signs on lamp-posts and leaflets featuring the route map being available at local hubs. Local GPs use the route to prescribe exercise, and weekly health walks now leave from the practice led by volunteer walk leaders. We’ve also been working with a retirement home and the local schools, as well as setting up some special themed walks and nature based workshops.

In Jericho our route begins and ends at the Health Centre, enabling people to access the route directly from consultation with their doctor. It was designed by local people and the GPs who were involved in the consultation process. As well as the parks and green spaces this route also includes a stretch of the canal towpath, and many of the area's community centres, adding a social element to the walk. Several guided walks with three local schools have also been a great way to get more people involved. Flyers are available for the route, as well as an interactive online map to use on mobile phones.

Frithwood surgery, Gloucestershire is a GP surgery near to Stroud. Healthcare practitioners from Frithwood Surgery have created greenspace and designed a health walk from the GP surgery through the village demonstrating the practice’s commitment to the health and wellbeing of their staff, patients and the local community. The GP and Practice Nurse and Frithwood Surgery, Gloucestershire, saw this as an opportunity to “engage with this community spirit and use our position as the clinical team to demonstrate the connection between green space and health" The inugaral walk included the all GP staff including the partners.