The NHA was initiated by an interdisciplinary group of researchers and practitioners from Nature and Health at the University of Washington. They proposed the creation of an interdisciplinary national effort to foster research and raise awareness of the health values of engagement with nature. They established a national Advisory Committee, led by Joshua Lawler, with Kathleen Wolf, Peter Kahn, John Spengler, Jennifer Roberts, Nooshin Razani, Hector Olvera Alvarez, Bita Kash, Gregory Bratman, Nalini Nadkarni, and Jay Maddock.
In October, 2022, the Advisory Committee received an invitation to submit a proposal to the REI Cooperative Action Fund, which is dedicated to supporting organizations that champion justice, equity, and inclusivity in outdoor spaces. The Committee extended the geographical reach of its leadership, and a subgroup of members across the United States assembled the proposal. The new leadership team included Bita Kash, Joshua Lawler, Jennifer Roberts, Nalini Nadkarni, and Jay Maddock. The NHA received a two-year award to work toward enhancing the health and well-being of individuals and communities by promoting time spent in nature, with a focus on understanding how to provide these opportunities to groups that have been underserved in access to the health benefits of nature.
In May 2023, NHA convened a Planning Conference in Salt Lake City, UT, marking a significant milestone in the development of NHA. Participants developed vision and mission statements, strategic goals, leadership structure, and an initial scope of work to guide NHA's strategic planning. The group also determined that the leadership and location will rotate in subsequent years to ensure inclusion of diverse ideas, experience, and resources, and to promote understanding and communication of the health benefits of nature for all individuals.