Nature as a community health tool: The case for healthcare providers and systems
Social and economic factors, health behaviors, and neighborhood conditions combine to significantly shape individual and community health. These social determinants of health (SDH) are the “conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work, and age... [that are] shaped by the distribution of money, power, and resources at global, national, and local levels.” Recognition that access to care and quality of care are not enough to be healthy has led to a recent rapid growth of SDH interventions within health care. Nature is an example of a neighborhood condition and a commonly accepted SDH. Nature impacts health through boosted immune response, improved air quality, reduced urban heat island effect, reduced stress, increased physical activity, and development of social connections. In fact, nature has been proposed as a tool to reduce deeply entrenched geographic and socioeconomic health disparities. Despite the acceptance of nature as an SDH, the abundant evidence linking nature and health, and the calls for providers to discuss nature with patients from public health and medical professional organizations, nature is generally missing from the rapidly growing pool of healthcare-generated SDH interventions. This represents a missed opportunity to leverage nature as a community health tool, especially for low-resourced neighborhoods. This article makes the case for nature as an SDH intervention, including healthcare providers engaging in nature contact counseling and health systems investing in creating new local neighborhood green space.
South EC, Kondo MC, Razani N. Nature as a community health tool: The case for healthcare providers and systems. Am J Prev Med. 2020;0(0). doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2020.03.025