Area Statements and health
We want to hear from you
These pages are being continuously updated, enabling stakeholders to get a better understanding of how Area Statements apply to their own specific areas of work.
This page is intended as an introduction to the Area Statements process, together with the associated challenges, opportunities and emerging ‘themes’, and how that relates to those working in health and well-being.
We are keen to hear your thoughts and ideas about how your work can contribute to the Area Statements process, along with how we might be able to provide you with strategic support. You can reach us by emailing NRWhealthpolicy@naturalresourceswales.gov.uk
Health/well-being and Area Statements
Natural resources are essential for our health and well-being – the air that we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, our very basic needs. They provide us with energy, prosperity and security, not to mention places and spaces for physical activity and recreation. In turn, a healthy, thriving environment promotes resilience within communities and significant opportunities to improve people’s lives. However, this can only happen if the natural environment is managed sustainably and recognised for the benefits it provides.
Our natural environment plays a vital role in what are known as the determinants of health, as illustrated in ‘A health map for the local human habitat’ by Barton and Grant (2006). This includes:
Global ecosystems, climate stability and biodiversity – essentials to human health and survival
The current climate emergency is having a significant impact on health. We are experiencing an increase in hot weather, a decrease in the number of recorded cold days, and more extreme weather events such as flooding. These can present an immediate risk to life and leave us vulnerable to communicable diseases, as well as having a detrimental effect on our mental well-being. At the same time, we are also experiencing a nature emergency with a loss of our biodiversity, something that provides us with vital goods and services such as food, medicine and research into diseases, as well as being of significant personal, social and cultural importance to communities.
The natural and built environment – creating healthy spaces
The environment that surrounds us has a huge impact on our health and well-being. Access to green and blue infrastructure (such as rivers, canals and ponds) can encourage physical activity, improve our mental health and decrease the risks associated with non-communicable diseases. Communities designed with well-being in mind tend to have minimal noise levels, better air quality, greater community cohesion and also foster local food production.
Living, working and learning – interaction with our natural environment
The way we live, work and learn both in and about the natural environment contributes to our well-being and fulfilment, as well as supporting creativity and innovation. Employment, volunteering, placements, education and/or training in the natural environment can increase physical activity levels, boost mental well-being, develop new skills and knowledge, and enhance our understanding of the sustainable management of natural resources. It can also reduce antisocial behaviour through local community ownership and involvement, as well as playing a vital part in supporting the economy in terms of how we interact and access our services.
Strong communities and healthy lifestyles – our choices and connection with community
Our behaviour as individuals, including the choices we make, is affected by a range of criteria including our interaction with other people, our involvement in community, lifestyle choices, and our sense of control over the environment around us. Natural resources are a conduit for physical activity and, therefore, important for our health. They provide space for interacting with others. They improve community cohesion. They support our mental health. Therefore, when considering developing or making changes to green infrastructure, it makes sense that communities are kept involved, for instance by encouraging usage, ownership and engagement through maintenance.
Area Statements present an opportunity to build on Wales’ commitment to connect environmental policy with the wider health agenda, for instance through tackling obesity, raising our levels of physical activity, improving mental health, and embracing Health in All Policies (HiAP) that take into account the health implications of the decisions we make.
Together, we can deliver the seven well-being goals outlined in the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 for the benefit of our people, economy and environment (namely a prosperous Wales, a resilient Wales, a healthier Wales, a more equal Wales, a Wales of cohesive communities, a Wales of vibrant culture with a thriving Welsh language, and a globally responsible Wales).
Health Impact Assessment (HIA) will also help in the development of programmes, projects and strategies in order to recognise impacts and maximise opportunities.
Natural Resources Wales is working collaboratively to build-on and create new partnerships with the health sector, along with a broad range of other stakeholders, developing innovative ways through which we can work together to address the climate, nature and health related issues that society currently faces.
We both value and want to work with local partners to ensure access to natural resources offering multiple benefits to our health and well-being.
Area Statements provide health professionals with:
- Environmental and climate priorities within different geographical areas, highlighting the impact these have on the well-being of local communities
- The needs of the communities themselves, each Area Statement having been written in consultation with local people and stakeholders highlighting what they deem as important to their environment and health
- A joined-up approach to policy and delivery that includes the environment, management of natural resources and health and well-being
Work from the Area Statements process will impact on the wider determinants of health and well-being. That’s why we are encouraging all health professionals to look at the information provided in the Area Statements, and to consider how it might benefit them in their day-to-day decision-making.
Discovering Area Statement themes
A full description of the different themes that are emerging from across Wales can be found here:
- North West Wales
- North East Wales
- Mid Wales
- South West Wales
- South Central Wales
- South East Wales