Health Forest is a pioneering Finnish operating model that systematically utilizes the scientifically proven health benefits of nature as a part of the official health care system. The model was created in the Health Forest Project funded by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (2014-2016). Behind the project was an interdisciplinary co-operation network which was coordinated by biologist, PhD Adela Pajunen, and geographer Marko Leppänen from the company Luonnontie. Other involved specialists included medical doctors of the health care station of the municipality of Sipoo, and researchers from the Natural Resources Institute Finland and the National Institute for Health and Welfare.
One of the most important outcomes of the project was a health-supporting method, in which patients of healthcare centers are taken to guided forest treks as a part of their treatment. The therapy method has been in use since 2015. The results have been positive with increased nature connectedness and well-being consistently reported by the participants.
Adela and Marko have written two books about the health benefits of nature and their experiences in the Health Forest program.
The book Terveysmetsä (Health Forest) by the Helsinki-based publishing house Gummerus was released in 2017. It is the first book in the world that systematically explores different locational characteristics of revitalizing nature environments. The book features details of 31 qualities for a Health Forest. Some qualities are primary characteristics of the forest, such as a high level of biodiversity; other qualities, like suitable paths, are secondary and derived from proper planning. Along with theoretical content based on research and cultural history, the book offers stories and practices to make these qualities alive and experienced by the reader.
Suomalainen metsäkylpy (Woodland) was published by Gummerus in 2019. It explores the different ways through which nature has an impact on human beings. The book shows that nature doesn’t only soothe us – providing stress relief, for example – but it also fills our cup with added value like optimism, creativity, vitality, prosociality and so on. The book takes the reader to the forest with the authors and their therapy groups, offering a combination of real-life healing stories and the latest scientific knowledge. The reader also learns about the fascinating network of connections in nature, which also includes the human being, whether they are aware of it or not.
Translation rights of Woodland (in Spanish) have been sold to Latin America. The rights are sold by the Helsinki Literary Agency.