NERC report offers diverse views on healthy environment research

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The FINANCIAL — A diverse group of members of the public, including those from under-represented communities, are helping to shape NERC’s healthy environment research priorities, UKRI notes.

Between December 2020 and July 2021, 95 participants took part in several co-created online workshops at which they were able to:

learn about NERC’s research on climate change, pollution, green spaces and the role of the environment in the spread of infectious disease

use virtual reality to interact with different environments

discuss and share ideas on what areas of research should be prioritised.

The Healthy Environment, Diverse Perspectives report was published today. It provides several insights into what participants, whose voices often go unheard in research decision-making, perceived as a healthy environment and what they wanted from research in this area.

Promoting wellbeing in healthy environments

Perceptions of healthy environments were linked to participants’ unique context and past experiences. These attributes of healthy environments conflicted in some cases, such as safety from crowds of people versus quietness and natural sounds.

An important benefit of healthy environments was the promotion of mental wellbeing. Participants also wanted to see more research on accessibility in healthy environments, particularly for those with physical access needs.

The workshops brought to light the need for research to empower communities with knowledge and for funders to prioritise long-term research that considers sustainability and social equity.

Solution-oriented research

Caroline Culshaw, NERC’s Head of Healthy Environment said:

We want to thank the participants for their time and openness during the sessions. Their person-focused interpretations of a healthy environment and concerns around safety and access have broadened my thinking about what is important in healthy environment research.

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Their demand for solution-oriented research is reassuring and adds weight to the current direction of our healthy environment work.
Insights were included in the development of a recent NERC funding opportunity. It aims to better understand how, by connecting with nature, environmental quality has a role to play in increasing health benefits. It considered access to healthy environments and facilitates inclusion of third sector and community groups in projects. This is a small step in improving the inclusion of public perspectives.

 

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