InCorporating Nature Panel – 2020 Center for Health & Nature Symposium

InCorporating Nature—Industry’s Role:

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 we live in and places we work.

The final panel, Incorporating Nature, highlighted industry’s role in creating healthier work environments. The average American spends more than 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime. Industry leaders are looking to nature to reduce stress, increase productivity and improve health among their work force. During the keynote presentation, Gregory Bratman, at the University of Washington’s School of Environmental and Forest Sciences discussed how industry engagement should not only include changes to the office environment, but access to nearby nature and outdoor recreation opportunities as well.  Studies have shown that employees engaged in nature have decreased depression and anxiety and increased positive moods. Companies are leading the charge to push research forward to quantify the positive impact nature has on workforce health.

The presentations in this panel focused on system design. The first highlighted research focused on physician and nurse stress and how nature can be used in building design to help minimize burnout. The second discussed a built environment design framework that focuses on nature and human health.  Both studies show ways in which nature; when incorporated into the built environment, can improve health and well-being.

Designing Systems to Prevent Physician and Nurse Burnout

Terri Menser, PhD, MBA – Scientist, Center for Outcomes Research, Houston Methodist

Zhaoyue Shi, PhD – Instructor of Translational Imaging in Radiology, Houston Methodist

Burnout among healthcare professionals is a widespread health concern.  This not only has the potential to affect the individual healthcare professional, but also the quality of care they provide for their patients.  This study used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) technology to compare the effects of nature on key brain indicators for stress and burnout.  This study showed that exposure to nature had longterm positive effects on reducing stress and subsequent burnout.  It demonstrates that incorporating nature into health care system design could play a key role in improving the health and well-being our of our healthcare professionals and those that they care for.

The Human Handprint—Built Environment Design for Nature and Human Health

Rick Archer, FAIA, LEED AP – Senior Principal, Overland Partners

Until recently, the built environment has had limited framework to measure the human experience—not just the functionality of the design but also the emotions it evokes. The Human Handprint is a process developed to guide the design of building through 5 categories including: aspiration, inspiration, relationship, stewardship, and well-being. This framework, when applied, works to create a built environment that not only serves the purpose for operation but also for human wellness. A case study was highlighted showing the impact this design process had on a center for abused and neglected children where nature was incorporated into the design.

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 people.

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