The growing link between health and the environment is clearly evident, in both policy and practice; and a professional community is rapidly developing which can convert this link into practical processes which achieve real health improvements.
Whether this inter-dependency is demonstrated in community allotments, school gardens, local food production, or as with the Totnes Gardening for Health project, the role of gardening for health and well-being is firmly established. Such provision has an essential place in the overall provision of health care for South Devon communities, where healthier lifestyles are a key priority.
The Gardening for Health project at The Lamb Garden in Totnes has grown out of the community need for underused outdoor green spaces to be developed effectively and productively.
In its first year, as a pilot, the Gardening for Health project has directly reached 69 people in the community via facilitated sessions on site and a complementary programme of outdoor workshops and activities. In the local community generally, a network of support has grown to over two hundred people. We need to build on this success.
The challenge for this (second) year is to change from a support base rooted in local volunteer networks, to a fully functioning referral-based system, accommodating patient referrals from various regional health providers and partners. Such a service can become a key element in delivering regional health and well-being targets. Funding from the NHS will enable this extended pilot to take place.
The successful development of this service will be an important element in delivering a range of benefits covering social, economic, therapeutic, environmental and educational needs. We believe that in 2012 this service has the potential to be a milestone in the local delivery of health improvements.