Being in nature and looking after nature is good for both our physical and mental wellbeing. Sadly, neglecting our environment has created poor health and placed added demand on healthcare services.

It is estimated that air pollution alone shortens tens of thousands of lives in the UK each year. Additionally, climate change is already having significant effects on our health, with the poorest and most disadvantaged people suffering the most.

Health and social care itself has a huge carbon footprint. According to the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare, the best way to improve patient care of any illness whilst reducing emissions, is to prevent it. This adds to the importance of health promotion activities and of proactively looking after our own health and wellbeing. You can find more information under Staying mentally well and Work-life balance.

According to the Environment Agency, a study of more than 19,000 people in England found that those who spent two hours or more a week in open green spaces were significantly more likely to report good health or high wellbeing.

Below you will find two sections. ‘Supporting our planet’ provides extensive advice for organisations as well as simple tips for individuals, to improve efficiencies and cut carbon emissions

‘Promoting health through green spaces’ provides evidence for the benefits of being in green spaces, as well as lots of local links.

The Space to Breath study shows the value of NHS green space for staff wellbeing, including recommendations for practice. Many staff (44-52%) said attractive green spaces were important to them in considering where to work, suggesting this affects recruitment and retention.

Local support

West Kent Mind offers mindful walking and gardening groups in the Sevenoaks area.

Live Well Kent and Medway provides resources, support, groups and activities across Kent and Medway; including outdoor wellbeing, green care, loneliness, mental health.

Visit Kent provides details of outdoor spaces and activities in Kent and Medway including woodlands, beauty spots, forest bathing groups, ‘outdoor detox and wellness’, cycling and much more.

Find your local country park or open space in Kent or Medway.

Active Kent and Medway provides practical advice and resources for being active at work, being active with disabilities and long-term conditions, for active travel (cycling and walking), connecting with nature and tackling inequalities. You can find information on other outdoor activities such as gardening, walking, exercise groups through various links under loneliness, keeping active, personal development sections.

National support

The Centre for Sustainable Healthcare engages healthcare professionals, patients and the wider community to understand the connections between health and environment and reduce healthcare’s resource footprint. 

Their work is guided by the principles of sustainable clinical practice:

  1. Prevention (see green space projects, includes the NHS Forest) 
  2. Patient empowerment and self-care
  3. Lean systems
  4. Low carbon alternatives (examples from many clinical specialties in their sustainable specialties programme).

The Social Care Institute for Excellence has a sustainable social care programme that looks at managing the risks of climate change to people and services.

The Greener NHS programme works collaboratively to build on the great work being done by trusts across the country, sharing ideas on how to reduce the impact on public health and the environment, save money and reach net carbon zero.

WWF has a calculator that allows you to work out your environmental footprint.

FutureLearn provides 20 top tips to reduce your carbon footprint. Simple things we can change can make a big difference, such as active travel, insulating our homes, eating more sustainable healthy food and recycling.

The Wheel of Wellbeing’s WoW Yourself section provides top tips for helping to care for the planet such as recycling more, leaving the car at home and better insulating homes.

Local support

Medway Council’s Climate Change Action Plan provides advice to plan your journey to net zero.

Kent County Council is committed to minimising its negative impact on the environment and supporting residents, businesses and visitors to do the same.

Kent Wildlife Trust looks after wild spaces, advises and teaches. You can get involved through membership or volunteering, joining in with projects to support campaigns and activities.