Webinar: Parks as “Natural Health Centres” 2018

Parks and Protected Areas are well-positioned to deliver health benefits. Green exercise and contact with nature through outdoor recreation, volunteering, learning or sport are not only meant for a better physical condition, they improve mental health and help to prevent key health issues.

Across the globe, parks and organisations have been joining the initiative Healthy Parks Healthy People, a movement that recognises the fundamental connections between human health and environmental health. Launched in 2010 in Australia and reinforced in 2014 at the IUCN World Congress, the initiative aims to unlock the power of nature and parks for their preventative and restorative health and well-being benefits, while conserving biodiversity.

Parks as “Natural Health Centres”

There is a range of good practice on how Parks and other protected areas can become “Natural Health Centres”, working side-by-side with the health sector; educating; monitoring results; and promoting health initiatives for their local communities.

In this webinar, we heard about the Healthy Parks, Healthy People initiative in the East Bay Regional Park (US), specifically how they are working with the health and education sectors to promote green exercise. When questioned about how to work with doctors, Robert Doyle (presentation can be downloaded below) suggested that a direct contact with doctors who are motivated in prescribing green exercise is fundamental, and added,

doctors don’t say go for a hike – they say go for a funny walk with your family.

National and Regional initiatives

Click on the image to download the Finnish Healthy Parks Healthy People strategy

After hearing the Park’s perspective, we heard about two initiatives being implemented at national and regional level in Europe. Joel Erkkonen from Metsähalittus Parks & Wildlife Finland introduced the Finnish Healthy Parks Healthy People initiative and showed us how they are monitoring visitors for over 20 years to value the socio-economic benefits of nature.

Finally, from a provincial perspective, Carles Castell from Diputació de Barcelona shared how they are providing local communities the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, through the creation of green infrastructure accessible and inclusive and promotion of regular activities. Carles mentioned the Healthy paths initiative, a project that is being implemented in green spaces around Barcelona in partnership with the local health departments to promote green exercise.


Watch the full recording of the webinar

Download the presentations

Introduction – By Pete Rawcliffe, EUROPARC Health Commission Chair

Parks and Protected Areas as “Natural Health Centres”

Case Study 1 – By Bob Doyle, East Bay Regional Park District, USA

The Healthy Parks Healthy People Approach

Case Study 2 – By Joel Erkkonen, Parks & Wildlife Finland

Health & Well-being in Finnish National Parks: benefits perceived by visitors

Case Study 3 – By Carles Castell, Provincial Council of Barcelona

Local experiences of promoting Health & Well-being in the network of Protected Areas of Barcelona province


Links and useful resources


The toolkit Health & Well-being Benefits from Parks & Protected Areas includes the latest studies showcasing a positive correlation between outdoor activities and health improvements, and the most interesting projects implemented throughout Europe. It was produced by the EUROPARC Federation, thanks to the work of the Health and Protected Areas Commission.

Measuring the socio-economic value of Health Benefits

Health Benefits

Nature and Forest therapy

Accessibility in Parks

“Webinar on Air”, some members of the Health Commission gathered in Finland to present you the webinar “Parks and Protected Areas as “Natural Health Centres”, September 2018

This webinar was possible thanks to the commitment of EUROPARC Health and Protected Areas members.