A prescription worth filling…naturally!

This webinar will focus on a communities journey and the great health and wellbeing outcomes that can be achieved through co design, engaging across the community health sector, social prescribing, some passionate staff and great plans!

When the Friends of Canadian Corridor successfully campaigned and petitioned government to protect 641ha of state park and former commercial timber harvest coups destined for housing at the doorstep of the regional city of Ballarat, in Victoria, Australia, they knew it was for something special. What is now Woowookarung Regional Park, the Wadawurrung First Nation Peoples’ name for ‘place of plenty’, is an important expression of community participation, organisation and strength.

The challenge to Parks Victoria was to ensure the park was reimagined to consider how it could support inclusive community outcomes. A Healthy Parks Healthy People Activation Plan was developed in consultation with the local health network to support health and wellbeing outcomes within the community, which provided the impetus to the health professionals to use the park to support their community health programs.

One of the first projects to connect the community to the park started as a co-design process to develop a trail. It became a compassionate journey to not just build a trail, but to nurture life changing connections while being in nature. What transpired was the design and installation of one of the first Dementia friendly forest and sensory trails in Australia.

The partnership that developed through this process, including Parks Victoria, community health groups, the State’s Department of Health and Human Services, Dementia Australia, and of course the people living with dementia and their carers, has set the stage for further health in nature programs.

Parks Victoria was delighted when the health community launched Green scripts early in 2022, encouraging health professionals to use the Dementia Friendly Forest and Sensory Trail to provide supported health and wellbeing outcomes in the park.

Social prescribing is a complimentary method for improving the health outcomes of patients through the prescribing of social and community activities. Parks Victoria has developed a guided walking program to provide a social prescribing offer in parks, which seeks to connect more people to nature to gain the health and wellbeing benefits it provides.

Studies have found that immersing yourself in nature also has the benefit that the more people that are connected to nature, the more likely they are to protect it. With people discovering how important nature has been to their health and wellbeing during the pandemic it is a perfect time for these conversations.

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