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Our Natural Health Service: Is contact with nature integral to healthcare or just another add on?

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Dr Jessica Barrett.

Dr William Bird, Health Walk founder and Natural England’s Strategic Health Advisor, has been awarded an MBE in the 2010 New Year Honours List in recognition of his services to health care and to physical activity.

Dr Bird developed the concept of health walks in 1995 whilst working as an Oxfordshire GP and established the first health walk scheme for his patients at Sonning Common Health Centre. He then worked with the Countryside Agency and the British Heart Foundation to establish the Walking the Way to Health Initiative (now WfH) and has been involved in this field ever since.

Seventy per cent of people in England are inactive and this needs to change. Walking is a fundamental way of maintaining physical activity and our eventual aim is to give every GP in the country access to a local WfH scheme so that they can all refer patients to take part in an accredited walking scheme.

The success of Walking for Health is directly linked to its location “the natural environment ” which has been proven to give people staying power when it comes to exercise.

Dr Bird has also been involved in the Green Gym and chairs the Outdoor Health Forum. He was the medical adviser to The British Heart Foundation National Centre for Physical Activity and Health at Loughborough University when it was first established. As an independent member of the National Access Forum, he helped advise the Countryside Agency and Government on the Countryside and Rights of Way Bill. Dr Bird is a vice president of the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers, has held Honorary Research Posts at Oxford Brookes and Oxford University, and set up the Health Forecasting Unit at the Met Office where he was Clinical Director.

This talk is part of the Bradford Hill seminars at the Cambridge Institute of Public Health series.

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