Building Healthy Communities by Getting Oregonians Outdoors
In Oregon, we’re working with Oregon Public Health Institute and other partners to improve mental and physical health by increasing the presence and use of the outdoors in communities facing health disparities. Learn more about this work below.
Spending time outdoors in nature can improve human health, but not everyone has equal access to the outdoors.
Communities of color, low-income communities, people with disabilities, and other vulnerable groups face barriers to spending time in the outdoors and are also more likely to experience health disparities than white, middle- and high-income people.
The Health and Outdoors Action Framework outlines the beginnings of a strategy for accelerating positive health and conservation outcomes for all Oregonians by increasing the presence of, access to, and use of parks, nature, and the outdoors in communities facing inequities. The recommendations in the framework are based on current research and evidence, ideas from interviews and group work sessions, and the experience of the planning team.
Actions are underway to implement the Oregon Action Framework for Health and the Outdoors.
HEALTH AND OUTDOORS PROJECTS
Green Infrastructure in Parks
Natural features like trees, bioswales, green roofs, and rain gardens can increase green space in urban areas while also providing helpful environmental services, supporting and sometimes even replacing traditional water management infrastructure. Working with the Green Infrastructure Leadership Exchange and the National Recreation & Park Association on a variety of green infrastructure-related projects, targeted toward helping communities center health and equity in their approach to infrastructure development.
Chiloquin Green Schoolyards
Photo provided by The Trust for Public Land
Chiloquin, OR is a small community with a rich history and heritage. It’s the ancestral home and current administrative headquarters of the Klamath Tribes, and was once an important logging town. In recent years, there’s been a concentrated effort by members of the community to stimulate economic growth and improve health outcomes in Chiloquin. Community-based organizations like Chiloquin Visions in Progress and Chiloquin First are working with collaborative partners in Klamath County to improve quality of life.
There’s a unique opportunity to harness this community excitement and engagement, bring community partners and groups together, and make a lasting difference for children in the community of Chiloquin.
It’s official: there’s a severe shortage of preschool options in Oregon. There’s currently only capacity to serve 1 in every 3 young children who need child care throughout the state, and with physical space for child care centers limited, outdoor preschool provides an alternative that could help close that gap.
Providing a path to licensure for outdoor preschools would allow existing outdoor preschools to operate for full days and serve more children. It would help increase the state’s capacity for child care by offering an alternative, accessible option for parents who need full-day care but are currently unable to access it.
The pilot projects are designed to support communities with the resources and tools they need to reduce barriers to getting outdoors; develop more parks, trails, and trees; improve access to existing green spaces; and, scale the programs that get people outdoors.
People of all ability levels should be empowered to access nature. That’s why we work with community partners to address access barriers for people with disabilities around the state. In 2016, we partnered with Adaptive Sports Northwest to provide a hand-cycling program around a race track in North Portland. And in 2018, we helped facilitate a collaborative that included Oregon Parks & Recreation, Adventures Without Limits, and Oregon Spinal Cord Injury Connection to put together a camping weekend for Oregonians in wheelchairs, along with their partners and families.
We know enough about the health benefits of time spent outdoors in nature to act now (see Table 1). However, many questions remain about the effects of contact with nature on human health. For example, how do we measure a “dose” of nature? We’ve created a research agenda focused on key unanswered questions that have the potential to yield major public health insights, now published in Environmental Health Perspectives.
We are also developing the evaluation tools that communities need to measure the health benefits of their work.
The following organizations lead the Oregon Health and Outdoors Initiative:
Intertwine Alliance, Oregon Community Health Workers Association, Oregon Healthiest State, Oregon Public Health Institute, PacificSource Health Plans, Northeast Oregon Network, Providence Center for Outcomes Research and Education, and Willamette Partnership.
The Oregon Health and Outdoors Initiative is made possible with generous support from Lora L. and Martin N. Kelley Family Foundation, REI Co-Op, U.S. Forest Service, Oregon Community Foundation, Meyer Memorial Trust, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Gray Family Foundation, Knight Cancer Institute Community Partnership Program, Providence Hood River Hospital, Nike, and Pacific Source Health Plans.
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Get in touch about the connections between health and nature.
Have questions about the Oregon Health and Outdoors Initiative?
Barton Robison, Partner, Health & Outdoors
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