Research Article

Healthy by Nature: Policy Practices Aimed at Maximizing the Human Behavioral Health Benefits of Nature Contact

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Authors: Sara LoTemplio, Amy S. McDonnell, Nalini Nadkarni, Carlos Andres Gallegos-Riofrío, Sarah Walker, Emily E. Scott, Joanna E. Bettmann, David Rojas-Rueda, Jamie Dahl, Linda Powers Tomasso, Joshua J. Lawler, Deana Davalos and David L. Strayer


Research suggests that spending time in nature is associated with numerous human behavioral health benefits, including improved executive functioning abilities, enhanced recovery from stressful situations, better mental health, and better educational outcomes. Greener neighborhoods also tend to have positive population-level health outcomes. Although promising, much of this research has focused primarily on selective populations and fails to account for cultural differences in how “nature” is conceptualized. Therefore, challenges may arise as policymakers aim to implement nature-based policies in their communities, given the immense cultural diversity of the United States alone. Given this ever-present challenge in behavioral sciences, policy recommendations aim both to maximize benefits of nature contact and to employ a flexible equity lens that allow for differences according to community need.