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Why this theme?

A range of factors shape our health and well-being. The places and spaces around us (our environment) influence our behaviours, the way we live and our physical and mental health. Different surroundings are a factor affecting health outcomes for individuals and perpetuate health inequalities across communities.

Good quality surroundings enable people to be more physically active, feel safe and secure, use facilities and services and socialise and play. These factors support good physical and mental health and well-being. Conversely, poorer quality environments may lack access to green spaces, have inadequate housing provision, greater traffic issues and air pollution, and lack of access to services. Such environments discourage healthy behaviours and may even impact directly on physical and mental health.

Green spaces bring people and communities together and provide opportunities to address issues of social exclusion and loneliness. Communal outdoor activity builds a common sense of purpose and nurtures local identity and pride in place.

Growing evidence shows that exposure to natural settings could be effective in treating some health conditions, particularly mental illnesses and that engaging with nature benefits those living with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), depression and dementia by improving cognitive functioning and reducing anxiety.

Image by Come Outside Project


What would success look like?

What success looks like The vision for South East
The health and resilience of our ecosystems across the four attributes of ecosystem resilience is not being compromised and where there is a need, is being enhanced Partners in Gwent working collaboratively to protect and improve health and well-being by connecting people, communities and service delivery to nature for the benefit of both people and the environment. Together, we develop a sustained knowledge, understanding and interaction with nature and realise the multiple benefits that nature can provide. The value of nature for society and economy is reflected in decision-making and public spend
Natural resources are being used efficiently and the supply of different ecosystem services is being optimised for well-being

A globally responsible Wales:

When young people are connected to nature, it has positive impacts on their education, physical health, emotional well-being and personal and social skills. Learning about nature helps to develop active, responsible, ethical citizens

A prosperous Wales:

Plentiful, well-functioning, high quality green spaces are driving inward investment and increasing local economic resilience. Public transport is accessible and active travel possible. People have good knowledge of their local environment, social connections high are and public/community green assets are shared. Vibrant natural spaces increase the demand for green skills, provide opportunities for lifelong learning and volunteering and further sustainable economic ventures boosting and supporting the local green economy

A healthier Wales:

Local green spaces and approaches to their management and health interventions are combining to ensure that Gwent is healthier. Nature and the outdoors are a mainstream part of people’s lives and ‘the system’ (healthcare, planning, education, etc.). Nature-based solutions become the normal approach. Organisations are working collaboratively to make this happen (e.g. Natural Health System). People have access to safe natural spaces in which to exercise, play, grow food, unwind and relax. Green routes for active travel are available to all from an early age and healthy behaviours are the norm. There are less cars and cleaner air. Children feel inspired, safe and encouraged to play outside. Communities benefit from increased physical activity, better mental health and the prevention of chronic health conditions (e.g. obesity, Type 2 Diabetes). This means there is less ill-health and less difference in healthy life expectancy across Gwent

A Wales of vibrant culture and thriving Welsh Language:

Vibrant local green spaces are expressive, fun and creative. They are designed for and by residents and are reflective of Welsh culture and identity, providing opportunities for creativity, arts, sport and recreation, boosting tourism opportunities. Our landscapes are connected, healthy and contributing positively to our natural heritage

A Wales of cohesive communities:

People feel more connected to the environment and to each other, have access to quality local green spaces and know where they can go and what they can do there. Traffic accidents are reduced. Communities are involved in local green space design and maintenance, creating desirable places to socialise with each other, instilling local pride, safety and community identity

The benefits derived from natural resources are being fairly and equitably distributed and the contribution they make to well-being is meeting our basic needs and is not declining now or in the long term

A more equal Wales:

Local green space is affordable and accessible in our most deprived communities who are also at a greater risk of experiencing impacts from environmental hazards and social exclusion. Local green spaces are safe, connect people, tackle exclusion and boost skills and confidence

Image by Pete Frost

What are the next steps/actions?

Nature-based solutions to health inequalities delivered across Gwent

  • Develop a Strategic Access Plan for Gwent, identifying missing links and areas where improvements are needed

  • Coordinate the Gwent ‘green recreational offer’ both for local people and for increasing day trips and tourism, including linking to the Valleys Regional Park Discovery Gateways (e.g. Cwmcarn Forest)

  • Ensure co-ordinated promotion of local green spaces and the ‘outdoor activity offer’ with a focus on designing communications to reinforce and support sustainable behaviour change

  • Deliver nature-based solutions to improve air quality with particular focus along the M4 corridor and air pollution hotspots

  • Work with the Integrated Well-being Networks (IWNs) to deliver a green prescribing pilot

  • Increase access to food growing spaces within communities such as gardens, allocated spaces near community buildings and allotments; share good practice from existing initiatives and enable more people to participate in local food growing

  • Work with land owners and managers in Gwent to identify where land could be managed differently to deliver health and well-being benefits to communities

  • Work with land owners and managers to trial different approaches to applying risk and liability responsibilities when working with communities

  • Safeguard and enhance the local green space offer for new and existing developments, working with urban planners

  • Improve active travel infrastructure

  • Deliver opportunities identified in the Gwent staff healthy travel charter across as broad a range of organisations as possible

  •   Develop and support a programme of nature-based interventions for mental and physical health by:

    o   Reviewing current provision, including funding, and scoping opportunities to work at scale;

    o   Identifying practical ways to enable the commissioning and delivery of nature-based solutions; and

    o   Establishing a shared understanding of how nature can make a significant contribution to both preventative and therapeutic physical and mental health interventions

  • Encourage, support and deliver initiatives that improve the quality of local environments. This includes increasing the number of publicly accessible local green spaces achieving Green Flag and Community Green Flag status

  • Establish a shared understanding of the reasons that people do not engage with the natural environment as a mechanism for tackling health inequalities

  • Support opportunities for outdoor learning and play; look at the inclusion of outdoor play targets in a local/regional policy context

Increased understanding of how nature-based solutions can deliver better health and well-being outcomes across Gwent

  • Develop a themed network of practitioners, researchers, key stakeholders and relevant agencies (and where applicable communities) to develop a shared understanding of nature-based solutions to health inequalities

  • Explore methods of involving communities and/or sectors who will be most affected by future change in the region in developing their own vision for nature-based solutions to health inequalities

  • Enable opportunities for citizens to challenge and scrutinise progress on actions

  • Provide the necessary level of commitment, ambition and leadership required to drive action on nature-based solutions to health inequalities

  • Work together to identify plans, strategies and approaches to service delivery which need to change in order to drive and embed nature-based solutions to health inequalities

  • Work together to develop, populate and use common datasets which will enable organisations to baseline evidence relating to the quality and accessibility of local green spaces and their capacity to deliver well-being benefits

  • Work together to develop consistent monitoring and evaluation frameworks which measure the changes to policy and practice regarding nature-based solutions to health inequalities

  • Develop a common methodology for identifying opportunities and assessing where management of the public sector estate can be managed in a way which enables the delivery of nature-based solutions to health inequalities

  • Develop a common methodology for identifying how better collective public sector procurement practices can support the foundational economy

  • Develop a methodology for the health sector to consider the long-term impacts of climate change on services provided (as identified by climate prediction modelling following the high emissions scenario)

  • Develop a common language which helps partners to achieve a shared understanding of what nature can do for health

Increased capacity of organisations and individuals, ensuring that they have the skills, tools and knowledge necessary to deliver nature-based solutions for health and well-being for people across Gwent

  • Work together to develop a toolkit and consolidate best practice, advice and guidance for methods of cross-organisation local green space management and maintenance costs which maximise the health benefits they provide to communities and share across the public, third and private sectors as appropriate

  • Develop and deliver ‘nature for health’ skills training across the public, third and private sector where appropriate, considering the opportunity for environmental apprenticeships

  • Develop and deliver a coordinated offer for environmental volunteering across Gwent

  • Work together to identify funding streams which can enable place-based delivery of outputs that improve the health of our natural areas and the health benefits they provide

  • Work together to develop a multi-sector and cross organisational action plan to deliver better green infrastructure for health opportunities for Gwent. This action plan will be used to deliver the theme specific actions identified above in in so doing will:

    o   Ensure that identified interventions are well co-ordinated between agencies and that strong governance and accountability pathways are in place

    o   Ensure agreed common methodologies are socially just and account for the additional needs of disadvantaged and vulnerable communities

    o   Identify where and how regional collaboration can build resilience

    o   Contribute to the development of a common evidence base for nature-based solutions to health inequalities

    o   Identify mechanisms for effective partnership working arrangements at a larger scale where required (e.g. national policy and strategy)

    o   Inform public sector asset management, procurement and financial planning practices

    o   Explore new ways of working and scale up success

  • Work with the third sector organisations with interest and experience in land management and the health sector to develop a scheme whereby they are resourced to advise on land management decisions from within communities, including identifying opportunities to develop networks and nature-based solutions to health inequalities, focusing initially on publicly managed land at the local scale with community and town councils

Who have we worked with to date?

A themed network approach was developed collaboratively with key stakeholders in Gwent to be as useful and accessible in terms of involvement and integration as possible and reflects the working arrangements of place. The themed network approach provided a mechanism early on in the Area Statement process to undertake activity through a particular lens. This was useful in allowing stakeholders to progress strands of work without the potential barriers of large or unclear scope.

Significant examples of strategic partnership working in the 'Healthy Active Connected' theme include more meaningful involvement with our public sector partners, such as the Gwent Regional partnership Board, Gwent based Integrated Well-being Networks, Public Health Wales, Public Services Boards and regional partnership projects including the Gwent Green Grid and the Resilient Greater Gwent partnership. We have also worked to integrate this workstream with Aneurin Bevan University Health Board as part of their Building a Healthier Gwent engagement process. Both organisations recognise that there is considerable opportunity for synergy between the Building a Heathier Gwent Strategy and the South East Area Statement. 

How do we think the areas of work we’ve proposed will help deliver SMNR?

The outcomes under each of the four strategic themes will deliver the Area Statement vision for South East. While each theme has its own vision for South East, each is part of the same overarching approach to delivering the Sustainable Management of Natural Resources in place.

The South East Area Statement is representative of more collaborative, integrated and involved ways of working. It is a representation of the work we have done in Gwent over the past two years to strengthen the ways we work together differently, within our own organisations and as partners.

In South East, we set out to produce an Area Statement which informs internal and external planning at the appropriate scale and helps stakeholders to consider ways of working together differently when doing so. The Area Statement process is adaptive and will help to explore and shape aspirational ways of working.

Themed networks will continue to focus on working together differently to build ecosystem resilience. Each network will work together to develop a common evidence base as well as facilitate preventative interventions over the longer term.


Image by Come Outside Project

How can people get involved?

If you would like to get involved in the delivery of the actions listed here, contribute to the developing themed network, or share your own images and stories of how nature has impacted your own health and well-being, please contact us.

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