Students Staff

03 December 2009

10 point plan to get kids back in touch with nature

Colchester Campus

A team from the interdisciplinary Centre for Environment and Society (iCES) and Centre for Sports and Exercise Science has come up with a ten point plan to put children back in touch with nature, tackle the growing problem of obesity and save society millions of pounds.

In a new report called Nature, Childhood, Health and Life Pathways, Professor Jules Pretty and colleagues identify ten priorities for action to improve the well-being of both children and adults and call on the Government to build “green exercise” into all aspects of public policy at a national level.

Pointing to statistics showing that one in 25 deaths (1.9 million) results from inactivity at a cost of £8.3 billion per year, the team says there is increasing evidence that exposure to natural places can lead to positive physical and mental health outcomes. They add that although deaths among small children have fallen over the last 50 years, obesity among 10 year-olds has risen from 10% to 16% and that 10% of 10-16 year-olds are affected by mental health disorders.

Professor Pretty said: ‘Fewer than half of children now get enough physical activity to produce health benefits. We need radical changes in social and physical environments and policies if activity levels are to change permanently.’

The researchers have come up with a pathway model for people’s lives where at the top (Pathway A) they live longer with a better quality of life and at the bottom (Pathway B) they die earlier and often live years with lower quality of life. They estimate that if an individual moves from Pathway B to A, it would save society £2423 per year. If just 1% of the population moves from B to A, this would save 1063 lives and £1.44 billion per year.

The 10 point plan includes encouraging more outdoor play for young children, planners to incorporate green space as a fundamental right for all people and a better evaluation and assessment of the benefits of outdoor play to people and the economy.

Authors: Jules Pretty, Caroline Angus, Madeleine Bain, Jo Barton, Valerie Gladwell, Rachel Hine, Sarah Pilgrim, Gavin Sandercock and Martin Sellens.

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