Evidence and investment are needed to ensure green social prescribing supports health and aids nature recovery

Posted on 13th December 2023

A new editorial in the British Medical Journal is calling for more evidence and investment to ensure green social prescribing supports health and aids nature recovery.

The piece was authored by Professor Ruth Garside, Dr Becca Lovell and Dr Kerryn Husk.

Evidence and investment are needed to ensure green social prescribing supports health and aids nature recovery

Widening inequalities in health, the cost-of-living crisis, and increasing non-communicable disease have contributed to the growth of social prescribing in high income countries. General practitioners and other healthcare professionals refer patients to a link worker, and a “What matters to you?” conversation enables co-production of a social prescription that connects patients to voluntary and community groups for support.

Nature based activities, such as gardening, care farming, open water swimming, or walking in nature, which may include formal therapy or a mindfulness component, are a core type of referral known as green social prescribing which also encompasses blue activities that take place in or near water.

The NHS is committed to rolling out social prescribing across England. Since 2019, there have been 2.5 million referrals through 3475 additional link workers

Commenting in the article, the team note,

“Such is the appeal of social prescribing that it may be straining at the seams. This risks exacerbating the problems it aims to solve. The unregulated link workers are central, supporting people to manage their health. However, many report being overwhelmed and that they are seeing people with increasingly acute or complex needs”

Considering the impacts on nature, the article also comments on the complex balance that needs to be achieved,

“Developing social prescribing approaches that harness rather than exploit nature is complex.

Green social prescribing interventions should contribute to recovery of nature. Mutual benefits for people and the environment are possible. The co-benefits of, for example, participating in local conservation activities for health of individuals, communities, and the environment can create virtuous feedback loops.”





Related content


New innovative tool will help local communities adapt to climate change

An innovative tool that gives individuals and teams the best available evidence in making decisions and identifying actions required to adapt to a changing climate launches today. As the world…


Cornwall awarded nearly £5m to tackle health inequalities in local communities

Nearly £5m has been awarded to form a research collaboration that will help improve people’s health and wellbeing in Cornwall. The University of Exeter is one of a number of…


Local Climate Adaptation Tool features as case study in World Meteorological Organisation State of Climate report

Climate change is bad for health but climate services save lives Climate change threatens to reverse health gains Extreme heat causes greatest mortality of all extreme weather events/ hazards Climate…