How plants benefit the health of city residents

Research shows that exposure to plants has a positive impact on physical, mental, and emotional health. The recent AIPH Green City Briefing explored this subject and highlighted the importance of including more green spaces in our cities.

Organised by the International Association of Horticultural Producers (AIPH) in collaboration with the Worshipful Company of Gardeners (WCoG) and sponsor Expo 2023 Doha Qatar, the AIPH Green City Briefings 2022/23 are a series of one-hour webinars focussing on cities around the world that can demonstrate significant progress in including plants and nature in their city’s form and function.

The eighth Briefing in the series featured the ‘Urban Micro Parks’ initiative in Fortaleza, Brazil, which won the ‘Living Green for Health & Wellbeing’ category of the AIPH World Green City Awards 2022. By making use of disused and degraded areas, the Urban Micro Parks have become a low-cost and fast implementation method of delivering outdoor areas for people to meet and enjoy nature in population-dense areas.

Luciana Mendes Lobo, Secretary of Urbanism and Environment of the city of Fortaleza, described how the initiative utilised the concept of ‘naturalised parks’. Instead of using concrete, the parks use natural materials to bring the population closer to nature. She explained: “Those natural elements are arranged to provide opportunities for movement, play, relaxation, and encounter.”

When choosing the location of the pilot park in José Leon (pictured above), the team considered who would make use of the space. “We made a partnership with the local school so the kids are the first users of the park. The school will use the park for activities related to nature.” The parks offer children the chance to play with and be in contact with nature. Other schools have partnered with the project for new parks to be developed in 2023 and 2024.

Read the full ‘Urban Mirco Parks’ case study here.

The health and wellbeing benefits of plants are well-documented. Lauriane Suyin Chalmin-Pui, a fellow of the Royal Horticultural Society and The University of Sheffield, has conducted extensive research into the subject. She explained: “Exposure to nature is associated with improved health-related outcomes, including better emotional-wellbeing and cognitive health.”

Lauriane described a research project she was involved in which introduced plant-life to front gardens in the greater Manchester area in the UK. “We found that at the beginning of the study, before the plants, only 24% of participants had a healthy level of cortisol. This increased to 53% after adding the plants, which suggests better mental-health regulation.” Cortisol is a hormone associated with stress.

“It’s important that we think of our cities as habitats for the urban population,”

Lauriane stressed. “In the same way we conserve and preserve habitats for other species, we have to think of ourselves as really living in these places.”

Watch this briefing on-demand.

The next AIPH Green City Briefing will focus on integrating plants and green spaces into urban projects. The briefing will feature the ‘Transformative Beltway to Green Belt’ project in Mashhad, Iran – a finalist in the Living Green for Economic Recovery and Inclusive Growth category of the AIPH World Green City Awards 2022.

The briefing will take place on 13th June 2023 at 1pm BST. For more information and to register, visit the AIPH Website.