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Healthy in Nature

Topics: Human Wellbeing | Comments

Healthy in Nature

A project is underway across Nordic countries to raise awareness in the public health sector about the health benefits of contact with nature.

‘Frisk i Naturen’ (Healthy in Nature) is a joint project between national outdoor recreation umbrella organisations and the health sector in Norwary, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Iceland. Financed by the Nordic Council of Ministers, the project aims to provide research and evidence of why nature is good for human health to policy makers, health planners, educators, doctors, urban planners and landscape architects across Nordic countries.

The project began when the outdoor recreations umbrella organisations in Nordic countries discovered the lack of attention for outdoor recreation within the public health area – both in individual countries but also across the region, through the Nordic Council of Ministers (NMR). It started in August 2009 and will finish up at the end of 2011. The program has knowledge partners from a number of universities and research organisations, and a reference group comprised of representatives from outdoor recreation groups and the health sector from each of the five participating countries.

  • Naturbild - skog och vattenspegel
  • Barn fiskar krabba Friluftsrådet
  • Naturbild - park höst

The aim of this project is to develop and publicise the Nordic outdoor policy with a clear public health profile; share best practice in a number of focus areas; and create a knowledge platform and communicate evidence-based research in an easily understandable way. The work also aims to reduce social inequalities in health and facilitate the exchange of contacts – both nationally and across Nordic countries. Project director Lisa Bergström says the program was informed by international research on nature and health. ‘We have enough knowledge to act but a lot of times the knowledge doesn’t reach the people that need it, for several reasons – and that’s one of the aims for this project.’

Frisk i Naturen has four focus areas:

  • Outdoor education in preschool and school
  • Physical activity on prescription/prevention and treating health care
  • Green open spaces (urban)
  • Mental health

Lisa says while nature-based activity is stable across the region, illnesses due to sedentary lifestyles are increasing, mirroring the statistics of other developed countries. ‘We need to reach out to people that don’t do physical activity at all,’ she says. ‘One of the main reasons for this project is to get authorities more aware of what nature actually can to for public health so that they can put in reasonable efforts in relation to promoting the use that the outdoors provides – in good health and in a good environment. We need to highlight this in an understandable way, make it easy to find, short to read – people don´t have enough time – and to work together within the Nordic countries to be stronger.’

Lisa admits there are challenges that come with running a project across a number of countries. ‘Even though we have almost the same language it’s sometimes hard to understand – we mostly speak our own languages with one another but sometimes it has to be in English.’ She says it’s also hard to coordinate participants across the five countries: ‘We are all very busy, we work too much – it’s a paradox really! But it’s also a great convenience to work across the countries – we don’t have to invent the wheel twice – we learn from one another and we can coordinate our efforts.’


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