Health

The World Health Organization defines health as being a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being. There is sufficient evidence to argue that  green infrastructure makes a contribution in all of these dimensions as open spaces are generally positively associated with promoting wellbeing and recovery from stress.

Another crucial contribution that green infrastructure makes to public health is the moderation of ambient temperatures. Higher temperatures have a definite effect on human health and it is estimated that the heat wave experienced across Europe in the summer of 2003 claimed 35,000 lives in European cities. For older people and the very young, installing green infrastructure in the right places could save lives. If tree and vegetation planting is integrated with a well designed programme of roof and façade greening the potential gains for human thermal comfort at the neighbourhood scale could be significant.

Investing in green infrastructure is cost effective. Hence local authorities in the UK create good quality green space and encourage people to walk, run, cycle and play for health improvement. Recreational parks and green areas provide opportunities for healthy physical activity and stress relief.

Studies by Ulrich examine green areas and their health benefits. In his research he reported that hospital patients who were able to enjoy a view of nature recovered from gall bladder surgery more quickly and required less pain relief or anxiety medication and also showed fewer complications and complaints (Ulrich, 1984).

The potential benefits for the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK are considerable and whilst it may offer limited value for land owners, there is a wider national value that can be given serious consideration when promoting schemes.

Greenspace Scotland, with support from Scottish Natural Heritage and the NHS, has developed a Greenspace and Health Outcomes Framework which provides logic models to be used by anyone involved in the delivery of greenspace or in promoting health uses of greenspace. As well as a strategic overview model, five logic models were developed focussing on planning, management, promotion, behaviour change and asset management. These models identify a range of factors which need to be considered if greenspace is to contribute to health improvement (Greenspace Scotland, 2010).