North York Moors health and wellbeing project granted an extension

A pioneering project to assess the health and wellbeing value of the North York Moors National Park is to be extended after being hailed as hugely successful.

Members of the park authority said they wanted to see the impact of connecting with nature assessed and applied wherever possible to its work.

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The figure is thought to underestimate the benefits as it only measures the impact on volunteers and visitors and does not investigate other beneficiaries, such as education and youth engagement contacts or health walk attendees.

A full authority meeting heard the findings of the York University study it commissioned could have far-reaching consequences, opening new avenues to fund authority schemes in the Moors.

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Members said that while the health benefits of the park authority’s work were clear, the intention was not to attempt to draw funding from the NHS, but councils’ funding for public health initiatives could be targeted.

Authority chairman Jim Bailey said that although the National Park was established as a place for recreation and landscapes, if it also became known as a place to improve people’s wellbeing this would take it to a new level.

He said: “The intention was never to get money out of the NHS, it was to underline the value that we can give as a National Park. It is undeniably a stake in the ground that says this is where we are.”

Authority member Jeremy Walker said: “When you think about the big headlines of mental health, obesity and diabetes this is just hitting so many buttons.”

Members heard the authority had recently succeeded in a bid to fund an extension to its popular Explorer Club and Junior Ranger initiatives, which would include an assessment of the health and wellbeing impact of the scheme.

As part of the contract to develop the measuring system further, the project team at York University has trained some members of the National Park’s staff in how to assess health and wellbeing benefits, so as to enable future extensions of the study.