Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Nature's medicine

“I feel we all pretty much agree that nature is good for your health. The question is: How do we hook up with it?”

University of California-San Francisco's Daphne Miller wondered these words aloud in a Tuesday session on “Wellness Through Nature: Connection Across the Life Span.” And while presenters shared their findings on the environment and why merely being outside promotes better health, they each concluded that the case for it is best grounded in common sense, not published research.

Howard Frumkin of the University of Washington School of Public Health and former director of CDC's National Center for Environmental Health gave a “tapas” of evidence for nature’s positive effect on health. For example, he noted that inner-city students in Indianapolis achieved better grades in school when surrounded by green environments. And interestingly, prisoners with visible trees outside cell windows report better health than prisoners without them.

“We know enough to act,” Frumkin said. “Available evidence is compelling but far from complete.”

National initiatives are ongoing to include nature in our everyday lives, according to presenter Leyla McCurdy of the National Environmental Education Foundation. The foundation addresses two important issues: preventing health conditions such as obesity and diabetes as well as connecting children to nature.

Miller noted that the science she presented is easy for anyone to relate to — it's “for people curling up in their pajamas,” she said.

Unused green space exists throughout the nation, including in areas where major health disparities exist, and are untapped natural resources for better health, Miller said.

“Nature is our natural health care system,” she said.

— D.G.

No comments: