Center for Health and Nature logo

The mission of the Center for Health & Nature, a collaboration between Houston Methodist, Texan by Nature, and the Texas A&M Health Science Center, is to drive research to study the impact of nature on health with evidence-based programs that complement the full continuum of health care: prevention, treatment, and recovery.

Houston Methodist logo
Texan by Nature logo
Texas A&M Health Science Center logo

Our Goal — To enhance health and healing through nature.

The Healing Power of Nature

For decades, hospital environments were a reflection of strict clinical utility – stark, cold and sterile. Everywhere from lobbies to corridors to patient rooms reinforced the understanding that you were there to be examined, to be tested. Consistent reminders that you were sick. Recently, though, we have begun to understand that medical care is more effective in environments that promote healing. That we can develop evidence-based, medically sound methods for patients to benefit from something that we all intuitively know – connecting with nature is good for us. As leaders in medical innovation, conservation, research, and education, Houston Methodist, Texan by Nature, and Texas A&M University are pioneering the use of nature as an innovative health care delivery system by establishing the Center for Health & Nature.

CHN Leadership

Marc L. Boom, MD, Former First Lady Laura Bush, John Sharp

Medicine and Nature: A Scientific Approach

The Center for Health & Nature will leverage the medical, scientific and environmental expertise of Houston Methodist, Texan by Nature and Texas A&M University to investigate and develop clinical applications for the therapeutic benefits of nature. The Center will drive research on the impact of nature on health care with evidence-based programs that complement the full continuum of health care: prevention, treatment and recovery. Potential benefits from the Center’s programs include stress and pain management, reduced anxiety and depression, improved quality of life and more. The Center’s programs will impact patients with a wide range of illnesses and conditions as well as health care workers, at every stage and place of life.

Our Research

The Center conducts research in three key areas: nature in preventative medicine, the health role of nature in urban environments, and nature-based intervention for disease management. The Center for Health & Nature Collaborative Research Innovation Fund supports multi-institutional pilot projects that bring together leading experts to tackle key questions in the field of health and nature with evidence we can use to inform solid public health, public policy, and conservation strategies. Learn more about our pilot projects below.

Pilot Research Projects

The Center for Health & Nature Collaborative Research Innovation Fund provides competitive research funding for health and nature research projects that advance the mission to improve health and healing through nature.

Designing Systems to Prevent Physician and Nurse Burnout Study

Burnout is estimated to affect more than half of practicing physicians and nurses. The responsibility for the health and well-being of fellow human beings is stressful and requires strong support programs. This study will assess the correlations between neuroactivity when viewing empathy-related stress images followed by nature images with burnout level and other psychological/physiological measures including: empathy, depression, and sleepiness.

Learn More

Influences of Virtual Window on Hospital Patients’ and Caregivers Health & Well-Being

A garden view from every hospital bed is not always an option. This study evaluates the effects of a virtual window with nature views and daylight on hospital patients’ experience, health and well-being. If beneficial, these findings could influence hospital design guidelines and provide a feasible alternative when nature contact is not an option.

Virtual Reality Gardening and Stress Prevention for Oncology Patients: Bring Nature Indoors

Cancer patients, particularly those undergoing chemotherapy, suffer from negative side-effects, particularly pain and stress. This study evaluates whether virtual reality gardening and nature settings can alleviate these symptoms as an alternative to pain medications.

Urban Green (Infra)structure for Pedestrian Health

Can we quantify the amount and quality of urban green space needed to improve pedestrian health? This community-based study will not only develop scientifically valid measurements of urban greenery but also evaluate the kinds of green space that most positively impact pedestrian health.

Learn More

Effects of Travel to Natural Environments on Health & Wellbeing

There is an emerging body of literature that demonstrates that exposure to natural environments is beneficial for health. These benefits include improved mood, reducing of blood pressure, less pain, increased focus and concentration and even immune systems boosts. Vacations and travel are often seen as renewal experiences. However, resorts across the United States vary from highly urban experiences to fully immersive nature experiences. It is unknown but quite possible that visits to resorts that integrate nature into their setting and provide easily accessible access to nature provide a more rejuvenating effect on people who spend time in these settings. This study will be conducted in two phases. In phase I, the study team will develop and validate a measure of integration and access to nature in resort settings. Using a mix of objective and subjective measures, the study team will develop a valid and reliable tool to measure these factors. In phase 2, the study team will conduct phone interviews of people who recently vacationed at resorts that score high and low on their access to nature attributes to assess their experience, mood, rejuvenation and perceived productivity after their visit.

Proposed Projects

Reducing Stress in Medicine with “Nature Pills”

Nature based solutions is an emerging field and this investigation is a pioneer study to investigate the effects of nature in reducing stress and tendencies towards burnout among physician and nurses. The results from this study, will provide hospital leadership with evidence-based interventions to help reduce physician and nurse burnout through exposure to nature and, ultimately, a nature prescription.

Heart Health Nature Study

As part of the Cardiovascular Health & Nature Research Program, this study assesses the effects of natural elements in patient waiting rooms on patient stress before medical appointments. The ability of exposure to nature to provide emotional support can be measured by changes in stress hormone levels, blood pressure, and heart rate.

Learn More

Support Our Work

There are many ways to get involved and support our mission. Collaborate on garden projects, sponsor or attend our symposium, or make a contribution to the Center for Health & Nature Collaborative Research Innovation Fund to support research projects that help us understand the connection between nature and health. Contact us for more information.

Make a Contribution
Contact Us