A recent report has gone some way to laying out a future strategy for mainstreaming nature-based interventions of mental health and wellbeing. Commissioned by Natural England and written by CareFarming UK and Mind, "Good practice in social prescribing for mental health: the role of nature-based interventions" is excellent reading for anyone interested in the whole topic. Total disclosure: Dose of Nature provided some of the evidence for the report, and I was on the project's advisory panel.
The main conclusion of the report is that the evidence is there to get going on this stuff, and there is the will from both the environmental side and the health side. The sector is growing and projects abound, but to help keep pushing there needs to be:
a consistent or standardised referral mechanism;
funding for the social prescription element in the majority of social prescribing services (not just the referral system bit of the process);
more active promotion of nature-based options compared to other types of intervention in social prescribing services, rather than only being suggested if a patient expresses an interest in being outside
as always, better evidence will help (even though the report says the evidence is good enough to do more central commissioning - see the blog entry on Defra's recent evidence reports, too). It actually mentions in this regard the imminent systematic review of what nature-based social prescribing approaches work for people with mild to moderate depression, and in what circumstances has recently started, being led by a team at The European Centre for Environment and Human Health and the University of Plymouth. This study is likely to provide a fuller insight into the benefits of the nature, health and wellbeing sector for social prescribing. We'll keep everyone posted when it's results come out.