City Research Online

Observations on a public health walk

Davies, J. (2015). Observations on a public health walk. Paper presented at the Mission Biodiversity: Choosing new paths for conservation, 2-6 Aug 2015, Montpellier, France.


Student nurses walk in urban streets and parks to observe ecological concerns such as energy pollution and human-wildlife conflicts; and reflect on how they will communicate the benefits of outdoor activities for a range of individuals. While the socially advantaged may readily embrace outdoor activities, those from less advantaged backgrounds often view public spaces as high risk environments. On their walk students meet and talk to the people they will care for when they are in practice. They learn about the space where they will later encourage people to walk. And they get to walk and meet each other. Some reports from these urban walks view nature as dirty and dangerous. The teaching innovation that which requires students to step out into the real three dimensional world and use all five senses to observe has won a prestigious quality award from the local health education board and been evaluated positively by students. The method draws on the health worker’s long established practice of ‘walking the patch’ and their need to observe and write a report of what was noticed in a given time and area. The walk provides an opportunity to observe both old and new public health challenges and initiatives, from drainage systems upwards. The instructions given to the student to walk about in a group, observing, notice and conversing have been developed from the psychogeography ‘dérive’ developed by Guy Debord in Paris in the 1950s, which we first used successfully with business studies students to disrupt traditional transmissive learning. The educational initiative is valuable for healthcare professionals to learning about their area of practice and reflecting on how to develop strategies and manage challenges of using the natural environment as a space for developing healthy living.

Publication Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: R Medicine > RT Nursing
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Nursing
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