Communities in Nature Panel – 2020 Health & Nature Symposium

Communities in Nature—the Daily Dose:

The Center for Health & Nature hosted the 2020 Health & Nature Symposium: Collaborating for a Healthier Future on October 7, 2020. The symposium brought together over 225 researchers, medical practitioners, and conservationists for a one-day virtual event that discussed the effect nature has on our health and well-being. Not only within a healthcare setting, but in the communities and places we live in and work.

The “Communities in Nature” panel highlighted research that showed the impact nature has on the communities and the health and wellness of those that live there. Our first keynote speaker, Diana Allen, highlighted the National Park Service program, Healthy Parks, Healthy People. Our national parks are gateways to health and wellness and the National Park Service is developing programs to transform our parks into a health and education resource for all.

The second keynote for this panel, Myron Floyd, Dean of the College of Natural Resources at North Carolina State University, reiterated the value of these programs during his discussion, Nature Matters to Black Lives. All people benefit from nature and value its importance equally, but disparities exist when it comes to access to nature. To reap the full benefit nature has on our communities, we must create an environment of safety for people of color and other minorities.

The two research studies presented in this panel provided science-based evidence quantifying the impact a network of nature trails has on the health and well-being of those surrounding urban populations. They also discussed how nature can be an effective tool for people that have suffered physical and psychological trauma.

Bayou Greenways Retrospective Study (Houston Parks Board)

Alan Pan, MS – Data Scientist, Center for Outcomes Research, Houston Methodist

The Bayou Greenways is an initiative of the Houston Parks Board to develop a network of trails and open greenspace to connect Houstonians to opportunities for better health and wellness and increased urban and social cohesion. This retrospective study is evaluating existing health data to determine the impact this initiative has had on adverse health events. This study is underway with results expected by December 2020.

Rivers of Recovery

Keith Tidball, Ph.D. – Senior Extension Associate and Assistant Director, Cornell Cooperative Extension

Rivers of Recovery is research focused on the rehabilitation of physically and psychologically wounded veterans. This research looks at pairing time spent in nature with activities such as fly fishing and the therapeutic response. Repetitive tasks, such as casting, are known to create breaks in thought. These breaks in thought, when paired with a passive setting such as nature, invoke a relaxation response. This combination has shown increased therapeutic outcomes during treatment.

The symposium was hosted by the Center for Health & Nature and is a partnership among Texan by Nature, Houston Methodist Hospital, and Texas A&M University. The Center drives research that quantifies the benefit of nature on our health and well-being, developing science-based programs for healthier populations.

Read more from our blogs featuring the first panel – Nature in Practice and the third panel – InCorporating Nature. Check out all of the presentations from the 2020 Symposium on our website and on our YouTube channel.