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 focuses on the role of nature in improving health outcomes by conducting interdisciplinary research.  Below are several examples of Center research with the potential for improved health and wellness for both patients and healthcare workers.

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 effectiveness of a stress-management program that incorporates short periods of time in healing gardens into working schedules to increase physician and nurse resiliency.

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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 Infrastructure 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.

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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.

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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.

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