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23 Mar 2022

New project will explore how nature-based activities can boost young people’s health

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Researchers from the NIHR Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) North East and North Cumbria (NENC) have been awarded a grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) to explore how nature can boost young people’s health.

The ‘Rooted in Nature’ 12-month pilot study will be led by researchers based at Newcastle University and delivered in Middlesbrough. It will use arts-based methods alongside traditional research methods to understand which features of a nature-based programme are most valued by young people and nature-based workers; what is needed to effectively manage a nature-based programme so that it can be adapted to other places; and how such programmes can be strengthened in the future. It will also explore how nature-based activities may improve health and wellbeing.

Principal Investigator and ARC NENC Research Fellow for the Supporting Children and Families Theme, Dr Catherine El Zerbi, said:

“In the face of complex social adversities that we know result in health inequalities and reduced life opportunities in our region, this funding will allow us to work collaboratively with our community partners to find ways to strengthen nature-based programmes for children and young people so that they feel inspired, confident and more connected to our communities. In doing so we hope to improve health and social  outcomes.”

The research is being undertaken alongside the Rooted in Nature programme led by Middlesbrough & Stockton Mind and funded by NHS Charities Together.

More about the Rooted in Nature programme

The Rooted in Nature programme  helps people to enjoy nature-based activities as part of looking after and improving their health and wellbeing.

It works with people who would not usually consider nature-based activities and who have health and other challenges in their lives that can be a barrier.

As well as improving the health and wellbeing of those who participate, the project aims to increase connection between health and nature-based organisations or professionals and understand how using a Social Prescribing model can increase sustainability of community activity.

A partnership approach

The study involves Newcastle, Durham and Edge Hill Universities, and community partners are Middlesbrough and Stockton Mind, Middlesbrough Environment City, Middlesbrough Council, Youth Focus: North East, and Tees Valley Wildlife Trust.

It is one of 12 projects funded by the AHRC as part of a national programme that will explore innovative ways of using culture and nature to tackle health inequalities. The funding will see researchers working in collaboration with communities and health partners across the UK to establish how cultural and natural interventions can be placed at the service of public health.

The intention of the funding programme is to explore strategies for scaling up small, locally-based approaches and to better understand how they can inform and influence system change. The projects will generate evidence to support the rollout of place-based approaches to creative health, growing an evidence base for positive change.

Professor Helen Chatterjee, AHRC’s Health Disparities Programme Director, said:

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted stark health disparities across the UK. Access to local cultural activities and natural spaces can play an important role in health and wellbeing.

“This programme takes a place-based approach to public health, exploring new avenues to tackle health disparities across the country. By connecting research directly with decision making at local, regional and national levels, we hope to build a new scalable model that leads to healthier communities across the whole of the UK.”

Find out more about the 12 projects that have been funded nationally

For more information about the Rooted in Nature study, contact catherine.el-zerbi@newcastle.ac.uk