On the move

07 April 2014 | Article

Interview with Bill Jackson, Chief Executive, Parks Victoria, co-leader of the World Parks Congress stream Improving Health and Wellbeing

The Healthy Parks, Healthy People approach is gaining good momentum. Is it enough? Which sectors are acting on the messages and who else needs to be convinced?

The Healthy Parks Healthy People approach is gaining momentum around the world, for example in the United States, the American Public Health Association, US National Park Service and the Pan American Health Organization are all playing a part in raising awareness of the health benefits of time spent in nature.

Ultimately the goal is to have healthy park ecosystems and healthy people. To achieve this there is still much to be done to embed the Healthy Parks Healthy People approach into the way communities plan, operate and care about people’s health and nature.

What Healthy Parks, Healthy People evidence is proving the most compelling?

There is a raft of compelling evidence worldwide about the links between nature and human physical and mental health, crime, childhood development, staying healthy as we age, the healing process, and community connection.

The Convention on Biological Diversity and the World Health Organization are currently compiling the evidence on the links between biodiversity and health. The fact that these global bodies are collaborating emphasizes the value of working together.

Is the growing awareness of the health benefits of parks translating into greater resources for protected areas?

Funding is always a challenge, but the resources generated through effective partnerships will help sustain long-term change for protected areas and our health. For example, Parks Victoria has strong partnerships with volunteer groups, community members, private health insurers, local government and business to implement Healthy Parks Healthy People initiatives involving people across multiple sectors to help sustain both parks and people.

The human health argument for protected areas is a powerful one. Are there lessons to be learned from Healthy Parks, Healthy People by the broader environmental community in gaining greater support for conservation?

Absolutely; sharing those lessons is critical to making real progress. Highlighting the links between our own health and the environment can encourage people to support and conserve nature.

We are sharing these lessons in a range of ways. The HPHP Central website is a place for everyone to share information and connect across the world.

The World Parks Congress 2014 is an opportunity to capture and share lessons. Two of the legacies from the Congress that will help share those lessons will be IUCN Healthy Parks Healthy People Best Practice Guidelines, which will be released in 2015, and the second Healthy Parks Healthy People Congress and Expo in Atlanta in 2015.