on Health & Nature
Access to nature is a basic right.
In Summer 2014, 30 leaders from health, academia, and nature-focused nonprofits gathered at The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread in Racine, Wisconsin to explore the connections between health and nature. Everyone affirmed the positive health benefits from spending time in nature and the imperative to use health as an important lens in guiding conservation. That affirmation formed the heart of the Wingspread Declaration on Health and Nature.
In short, humans are part of nature, our connection with nature is a fundamental human need, and we believe access to nature is a basic right.
Nature and human well-being are connected
The connection between people and the natural world is fundamental to human health, well-being, spirit, and survival. Nature is a source of food, clean water, clean air, medicine, shelter, and economic opportunity. Moreover, in order to thrive, humans require direct access to nature. Whether a city park, a community garden, a tree-lined street, or wilderness – nature in people’s daily lives reduces stress, renews the spirit, connects people to each other, and increases physical activity.
In short, humans are part of nature, our connection with nature is a fundamental human need, and we believe access to nature is a basic right. However, large numbers of people – many of them children – are now disconnected from nature. As a direct consequence, people around the world are suffering from substantial health challenges, many of them preventable. Likewise, the natural world faces increased pressures and vulnerability. The human, natural, and economic consequences of these challenges are already enormous.
This situation calls for placing consideration of the nature-health connection at the center of research, design, and decision-making across multiple fields. Concerted, cooperative action from health, environmental, educational, governmental, and corporate actors is needed to reconnect people with nature and to secure commitment to protecting nature.
Call for action to connect people with nature
We know enough to act now. A robust body of evidence demonstrates the benefits to human health and well-being of the natural world and of nature contact. Evidence also demonstrates substantial co-benefits, such as more vibrant communities, reduced health disparities, mitigation and adaptation to a changing climate, and business opportunities.
Therefore we commit our own efforts to the following goals. We also call on leaders in the public and private spheres to recognize these commitments as central to their own aims, and to commit their own organizational efforts to these goals:
- Today’s children will grow up with an understanding of their interdependence with nature. They will habitually incorporate outdoor activity into their everyday lives, and grow up with an appreciation for nature. Achieving this goal will require changes in school facilities and curricula, urban design, public spending priorities, pediatric healthcare, and more. In approaching this goal, we will focus on the most vulnerable and under-served populations of children first.
- Employers and business leaders will recognize the powerful economic benefits of reconnecting people with nature and, in particular, of encouraging outdoor activity in order to lower healthcare costs, improve employee recruitment, retention, and performance. In so doing, employers will become leaders in preventing illness and disability, promoting health and well-being, and working to steward nature.
- Nature, and access to nature, will be recognized as an important part of our health infrastructure and we will invest in places for healing and places to promote health.
- We will help build organizations that have the competencies to factor the nature-health connection into their decisions on a regular basis. This will require training and hiring of knowledgeable employees. It will also rest on the incorporation of research findings on this topic, thus:
- New research will further reveal the interdependencies between nature and human health. We will undertake quantitative and qualitative research initiatives to measure and illustrate the health, well-being, and economic benefits of embedding the nature-health connection into decision-making at all levels.
- To support these measures, we will create a clearinghouse of research, information, case studies of success, and partnerships to support good decision-making and to help connect new networks of health and environmental organizations.
Bradford S. Gentry, Professor in the Practice, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and Yale School of Management
Karen Tuddenham, Masters of Environmental Management, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies
Raymond Baxter, Senior Vice President of Community Benefit, Research, and Health Policy, Kaiser Permanente
Christopher A. Smith, Senior Program Officer, Colorado Health Foundation
Kim Elliman, President and CEO, Open Space Institute
Robert Zarr, Pediatrician, Unity Health Care, INC
Cynthia West, Associate Deputy Chief, USDA Forest Service, Research, and Development
Kristin Wheeler, Program Manager, Institute at the Golden Gate
Rue Mapp, Founder and CEO, Outdoor Afro
Elizabeth Ward, Director of Communications, Land Trust Alliance
Lisa Sockabasinm Director, Office of Minority Health, Maine CDC, Dept. of Health and Human Services
Sarah Milligan-Toffler, Executive Director, Children and Nature Network
Elizabeth G. Love, Program Officer, Houston Endowment Inc.
Marc Smiley, Principal, Solid Ground Consulting
Stacy Bare, Director, Sierra Club Outdoors
Eugene Grigsby, President and CEO, National Health Foundation
Marcie Tyrie Berkley, Board of Directors, Maine Huts and Trails & The Fenn School
Wendy Jackson, Executive Director, Freshwater Land Trust
Forrest Berkley, Founder, Excess Return Fund
William Bird, Family Doctor and CEO, Intelligent Health, UK
Howard Frumkin, Dean, University of Washington, School of Public Health
Naomi Sachs, Founding Director, Therapeutic Landscapes Network
William Rogers, President and CEO, The Trust for Public Land
Perry Robinson, Managing Director, Greenwich BioMedical Inc.
Max Michael, III, M.D., Dean, University of Alabama at Birmingham, School of Public Health
Jay Espy, Executive Director, Elmina B. Sewall Foundation
Peter Harnik, Director of Center for City Park Excellence, The Trust for Public Land
Jeannette R. lckovics, Professor, Yale School of Public Health
Bobby Cochran, Senior Fellow | Community Resilience and Innovation, Willamette Partnership
John Cochran, President, Cochran Consulting
Rand Wentworth, President, Land Trust Alliance
Cathy Jordan, Associate Professor, University of Minnesota
Luis Camargo, Founder & Director, OpEPA
Hannah Quimby, Executive Director, Quimby Family Foundation
Maggie Zoellner, Executive Director, Kettle Moraine Land Trust
Maurizio Droli, Academic researcher, University of Udine, Friuli Venezia Giulia Region
Learn more on the health & nature link
The following resources are just a small sampling of information on how nature and access to nature can improve human health:
- Children and Nature Network Resources Page
- Willamette Partnership – Health and Outdoors Initiative
- Yale Center for Business and Environment
- Colorado Health Foundation
- Sierra Club Outdoors
- U.S.D.A. Forest Service, Research, and Development
- Kaiser Permanente
- Land Trust Alliance
- Houston Endowment, Inc.
- Trust for Public Land
- National Health Foundation
- University of Washington School of Public Health
- Elmina B. Sewall Foundation
- Yale School of Public Health
- Open Space Institute
- Institute at the Golden Gate
- Therapeutic Landscapes Network
- Outdoor Afro
- Freshwater Land Trust
- Intelligent Health, Reading, UK
- University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health
The original gathering was made possible by Yale University’s Program on Strategies for the Future of Conservation, the Land Trust Alliance, Forrest and Marcie Berkley, and The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread. The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread is a family foundation in Racine, Wisconsin dedicated to being a catalyst for solutions to the most pressing environmental and community problems of our time.
Get in touch about the Wingspread Declaration.
Sara O’Brien, Executive Director
email | email@example.com