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The Natural Environments Initiative

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Researchers working to measure the mental and physical health benefits of nature believe that green spaces offer support for public health, especially given increasing urbanization, disruptions due to climate change, and rising rates of non-communicable, chronic disease including mental health disorders.

The Center for Health and the Global Environment brought together 20 international experts in October 2013 from medicine, landscape architecture, public health, and forestry science to identify the elements of design that contribute to health-promoting natural environments.

The Natural Environments Initiative is a working group paper that explores how we can—and should—integrate natural elements into city plans to support public health while also providing “ecosystem services,” or the contributions of natural elements to the quality of human life.

The group envisions exposure to nature as part of a larger public health strategy captured by the acronym “AIM:” Advocate (access to nature for health), Invest (in equitable access), and Mediate (engage in translation between disciplines to build support beyond the health sector).

The paper is intended for urban planners, landscape architects, health clinicians, and community members interested in forming strategic alliances and agendas using evidence-based insights into healthy green spaces.

The group invites your participation in bringing the concepts into action, as well as your thoughtful commentary.

Aaron Bernstein, MD, MPH

Aaron Bernstein is the Interim Director of The Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment, a pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital, and an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics.

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