Chronic diseases and mental health conditions are common and disabling, with conditions such as obesity, heart disease and depression among the top public health priorities of our time. The treatment costs of these health challenges are rising and healthcare providers are struggling to provide effective care to all in need. In addition, significant disparities in access to health care and health outcomes exist.
According to the best available evidence, contact with nature offers considerable promise in addressing a range of health challenges. Many studies show that time spent in nature is associated with better mental and physical health, including lower stress, reduced anxiety, lower blood pressure and other benefits to human health. Potential advantages can also lead to lowered health costs.
Many critical questions about how nature benefits health remain to be answered, such as what types of exposures to nature are most beneficial? What dose of nature is needed to have the desired effect? Where are the greatest inequities in access to nature and how can those be inequities be eliminated?
Nature for Health at University of Washington is launching a robust program of research to generate answers to these questions and more. In collaboration with other researchers, practitioners and policy makers, we seek to further our understanding of the impacts of nature on human health, having the potential to shape policies, programs and the landscapes we inhabit. Nature for Health currently focuses on five sectors—veterans, children, the elderly, healthcare providers and underserved populations.