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Natural Choices

Find out about the Natural Choices Pilot Project

Background

The Natural Choices Pilot Project was a feasibility study to set up a referral system for health professionals in Weymouth and Portland so that patients could be signposted to activities in the natural environment.

The Project was a GP led initiative which evolved from the Natural Weymouth and Portland Partnership (opens in a new window) (NWPP). Project partners were representatives from the Dorset Coast Forum, Natural England (opens in a new window), Weymouth and Portland Borough Council (opens in a new window), Dorset Coast and Countryside Service, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (opens in a new window), The Dorset AONB (opens in a new window), Dorset Wildlife Trust (opens in a new window), Public Health Dorset (opens in a new window), Local GPs and Bournemouth University (opens in a new window).

The Dorset Coast Forum led this work, with funding from the Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group (opens in a new window) and Dorset County Council, RSPB and the Olympic Legacy Fund.

Natural Choices (pdf, 1Mb) (opens in a new window) explains how people could be referred to the activities and the film below shows the benefits of gentle exercise in the natural environment.

Natural Choices audio transcript (PDF, 80kb) (opens in a new window)

Aim and objectives

The aim of the Natural Choices Pilot Project was to:

  • Improve physical and mental health
  • Reduce the number of GP visits from frequent patients
  • Deliver a new range of activities using the natural environment
  • Enable community capacity to sustain the programmes
  • Have happier, healthier, sustainable lives in the Weymouth and Portland area    
  • Provide a model that could be used for the rest of Dorset

Natural Choices Launch

Natural Choices, which is the suite of activities created by the project, was launched on the 10th June 2015. Dr William Bird, founder of Intelligent Health- which works to get people more active for their health and well-being - spoke at the event about the physical and mental benefits of doing exercise in the natural environment. The launch was attended by GPs, health professionals and activity providers who were able to hear about the benefits of the programme and how they can signpost patients to these activities. LiveWell Dorset, Debbie Ward- the chief executive of Dorset County Council and local GP Jon Orrell also spoke at the event.

Project Reports

The project has complied an on-going Literature Review for Natural Choices (pdf, 693kb) (opens in a new window) of evidence that supports the need for Natural Choices Program in Dorset and provides examples of similar projects and their methods of evaluation.

Using the Dorset Citizens panel survey and by asking local GPs, the project identified motivations and barriers to exercise in the natural environment and potential activities for the Natural Choices program. The Natural Health Service Weymouth and Portland Survey Report (pdf, 1Mb) (opens in a new window) outlines the questions that were asked and the analysis of the responses.

Future of Natural Choices

The pilot was successful and has now been expanded to the rest of Dorset, working with the Dorset Local Nature Partnership who now manage the expansion of Natural Choices.

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