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Reconnecting with nature: a research agenda from Center for Creative Conservation working group

At a time of increasing disconnectedness from nature, scientific interest in the potential health benefits of connecting with nature has grown. Research in recent decades has yielded substantial evidence of nature’s health benefits, but large gaps still remain. Lead by Howard Frumkin, the Center for Creative Conservation’s Nature and Health working group published a proposed research agenda on nature contact and health. The paper exhaustively reviews the existing literature on the health benefits of being in nature and identifies seven major domains in which further research is needed:

  1. mechanistic biomedical studies look at how nature improves human health, such as by facilitating physical activity, a sense of wonder, and social connections
  2. exposure science develops methods and metrics, both quantitative and qualitative, for measuring what counts as “nature contact” and a meaningful “dose”
  3. epidemiology of health benefits examines the health outcomes of being in nature, from reducing pain and stress to reducing the risk of getting cancer
  4. diversity and equity considerations underscore the need to account for cultural differences and inequities in understanding the nature-health connection, from unequal access to nature, to disparate ways of valuing nature, to the phenomenon of “green gentrification”
  5. technological nature refers to technologies that mediate the nature experience, such as apps and virtual reality, and the question of whether these have the same or different health benefits as being in real natural places
  6. economic and policy studies refer to cost-benefit analyses of the health benefits, avoided medical costs, and other services provided by ecosystems, and policy implications for conservation and planning
  7. implementation science develops and evaluates the tools and actions that best deliver the benefits of nature, such as how to best design parks, trails and schools, and how doctors can best “prescribe nature.”
Read agenda at Environmental Health Perspectives