Institution: aBOS+; bChristian Health Insurance Fund (CM); cRegional public authority for Nature and Forests of Nature & Forests – Government of Flanders – Belgium

Contact: ktrnkilpi@gmail.com

Keywords: Campaign, Prevention, Health Promotion, Practice Oriented Research, Restoration Indicators, Urban Nature, Urban Forests

 In the Flemish provinces in Belgium, accessible nature is unequally distributed. The matter is rising higher on the political agenda, as the links between exposure to nature and health have received stronger evidence. The observed naturalness of the residential environment has been associated with a lower prevalence of depression, anxiety and stress. Furthermore, people who have access to green spaces in their neighbourhood, use these areas more and tend to be physically more active. Finally, people with a strong connection with nature, spend more time in nature and thus become more exposed to the beneficial effects of natural environments.

Three stakeholders based in Flanders, a health insurance provider (CM), a state agency for forest and nature (Regional public authority for Nature and Forests of Nature & Forests, government of Flanders) and a forest advocate organization (BOS+) partner annually to run a campaign to encourage physical movement in natural environments for 30 minutes per day during 30 days. Since 2017, an assessment of the impact of the campaign on the participants´ subjective health and wellbeing has been conducted. In the autumn of 2018, altogether 1720 participants started the campaign. They reported their daily activities in an online diary and through the three surveys that were administered throughout the campaign. The impact of the campaign on participants´ subjective health and wellbeing, their connectedness with nature and the level of naturalness of their perceived living and exercising environments, were measured by using a set of validated scales, an objective measure and qualitative questions.

Regardless of a number of constraints in the study set up and execution, for the second time in a row, similar results come about. The campaign succeeds to attract and engage a rather homogenous group of highly educated women over 35-year of age. While the respondents are in average or better health, they seek the encouragement of the campaign to remain physically active regardless of lack of time, tiredness or bad weather conditions. The lessons learnt from the impact assessment include the highlighted difficulties this segment of the society faces in their attempts to maintain their health; the issues that come about when attempting to conduct scientific research close to practice; and possible points to be looked into for further research.

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