The European Centre for Environment and Human Health is a key partner in a new 4-year project on nature-based therapies

Posted on 15th June 2023

Nature-based therapies can play an important role in addressing physical and mental health issues, but we need to know more about the benefits and challenges of these therapies. The University of Exeter is excited to announce that it has been confirmed as a key partner in a new 4-year EU-funded research project which will help fill this knowledge gap.

There is growing evidence that spending time in natural and semi-natural places such as urban parks, woodlands, mountains, rivers and beaches can reduce people’s risk of various health and social challenges including heart disease, diabetes, stress, depression, and loneliness and build their resilience to cope with every-day and longer-term life challenges.

Many relatively small-scale “nature-based therapies” have sprung up across the world to support people with these and other conditions to access nature for their health and wellbeing. However, little is known about their overall effectiveness or how desirable or feasible it is to make nature-based therapies more mainstream, acceptable to both patients and health care professionals, while also recognising the possible impact on sensitive nature environments.

The new €6.3million EU Horizon Europe and UK Research & Innovation funded RESONATE project (Building individual and community RESilience thrOugh NATurE-based therapies) will explore these issues with a review of interventions globally and in-depth exploration of 9 nature-based therapy Case Studies across Europe. Three Social Innovation Actions will develop community focused nature-based resilience Hubs to demonstrate best-practice for scaling-up and scaling-out successful interventions. Experts running nature-based therapies in America, Australia and Canada will be among those advising the project.

Dr Lewis Elliot said:

“We’ve known for some years that nature can benefit people’s health and wellbeing but turning this knowledge into specific therapies that are recognised and supported by doctors, health practitioners and health and social care systems, and accepted by local communities and landowners, remains a challenge. As well as looking nature-based resilience to stressors in two large-scale cohorts, the University of Exeter’s contributions will provide unique insights into the contexts in which nature-based therapies operate, and the psychosocial processes experienced by participants, which will then be used to help us address some of these challenges.”

The RESONATE project runs from June 2023-May 2027 and will use the results of the research to produce a collection of open access Nature-based Therapy Guides for different stakeholders, practitioners and policy makers. These guides will help local communities decide if introducing nature-based therapies in their area is right for them, and if so provide a road map for how best to ensure the interventions are as acceptable and effective as possible.

 

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