Last week I was at ‘Towards a Daily Dose of Nature’, part of the Nature & Wellbeing Summit in Bristol. One of the ideas presented on the day was comparing nature to a drug. This inspired me to produce a drug packet design for Nature, a useful exercise as it forced me to sum up the evidence of the health benefits. Looking at the benefits for health, and the numerous ‘side effects’ for wellbeing, I think it’d fly off the shelves. Of course, nature is out there, and it’s free – so why isn’t it part of our everyday healthcare?
Existing models of healthcare essentially view people as separate from the environment and affected by events. The biomedical model is basically about deviation from normal, and treating those deviations, often with drugs. However, the NHS is now spending £100 billion on cures and a very small proportion on wellness. We are wedded to the biomedical model, placing health in a medical context, prescribing drugs and often expecting to receive them as patients.
The biopsychosocial model of health described by Engel back in 1977 included psychological and social factors, but we now know a connection to nature is as important for wellbeing as established social factors. And there’s even more evidence that simple exposure to nature is good for our physical and mental health. So, health depends on biology, psychology and nature – biopsychophysis to continue the model terminology. This provides a new paradigm for wellbeing based on the unity of life, mind and nature.
‘Normalising nature’ was another theme in Bristol and such a new paradigm for health and wellbeing could underpin the epistemology of health, leading to changes in medical training and approaches to health and wellbeing in the long-term – making access to nature part of everything we do. Until then we must continue to highlight the link between nature and wellbeing, be it through national campaigns or comparing nature to drugs within a biomedical context.