The 'Dose of Nature' Project
In 2015 & 2016 I led two successful pilot programmes for the University of Exeter’s ‘Dose of Nature’ project funded by the Natural Environment Research Council.
Participants were referred to the programmes by their General Practitioner in response to a variety of challenges and symptoms. These included post-operative recovery and other physical issues, but were mainly focussed on coping with stress, anxiety and mild to moderate depression.
The programme was centred on weekly group walks at various locations near to the participant’s GP practice. It included a variety of activities in addition to walking. For example group discussion, reflection time alone and some shared practices. There was a focus on helping participants find strategies and techniques for self-care and on building a supportive community.
Research was undertaken using National Health Service standards. These were the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale and PHQ9 Questionnaire.
The research showed significant improvements in most participants, far in excess of those normally experienced through pharmacology or conventional talking therapies alone.
The Dose of Nature Project is now into a new phase to establish a central referral hub for outdoor-based therapies in Cornwall. It has become a collaborative project with Cornwall Council, the local Clinical Commissioning Group and various other stakeholders and service providers.
I also hold a role with the development of the project as a whole - to advise on professional standards and quality assurance for service providers.