New center to advance health and nature research and education

A partnership between Houston Methodist, Texas A&M and Texan by Nature will incorporate nature into healing environments using evidence-based design
May 3, 2018

Houston Methodist Hospital, the Texas A&M University System and Texan by Nature are partnering to form the Center for Health and Nature. They will work together to advance health and nature research and education. The Center for Health and Nature will publish research outcomes and provide actionable guidance to clinicians, conservationists and policymakers with the vision to  implement evidence-based health and nature programs to complement the full continuum of health and health care – prevention, treatment and recovery.

The leaders of the three organizations, Dr. Marc Boom, Chancellor John Sharp and former First Lady Laura Bush, announced the goals of the center at a recent event in Houston, which includes the creation of a Health and Nature Healing Garden at Houston Methodist. This garden will support the health, healing and well-being of patients and caregivers by giving them access to nature within their health care environment.

During the 2018 spring semester, senior students in the Texas A&M University Landscape Architecture Department were part of the effort to create holistic plans to make the vision for the garden a reality. The center will also convene an annual Health and Nature Symposium to bring together national and international research experts to explore the effects of nature on human health and healing.

A pilot research project, the Center for Health and Nature and the Cardiovascular Health and Nature Research Proof of Concept Program, will explore the health effects of nature on cardiovascular wellness and healing. Researchers will examine the effect of the exposure to nature on health outcomes of women 65 and older with certain types of heart failure. The success of this pilot program will lay the foundation for future research to assess health effects of nature in other areas such as neurodegeneration, immune system and inflammation-based disease, and mental well-being and healing.

Also, the Center for Health and Nature Collaborative Research Fund will be established to provide competitive research funding for health and nature research projects that advance the center’s mission to improve health and healing through nature.

The Center for Health and Nature will be housed within the Center for Outcomes Research at Houston Methodist Hospital. The Center for Outcomes Research is a partnership between Houston Methodist and the Texas A&M School of Public Health, under the leadership of Bita A. Kash, PhD, MBA, FACHE.

“As the Director of the Center for Outcomes Research at Houston Methodist and research faculty at Texas A&M School of Public Health, I am very excited to see this partnership between Texan by Nature, Houston Methodist and Texas A&M University towards research that will firmly established the link between exposure to nature and health outcomes,” Kash said. “The scientific community is fully aware that only 50 percent of health outcomes are attributed to medical care and genetics; the other 50 percent are directly linked to health behaviors, social factors and the environment.”

“By activating this type of multi-disciplinary research, researchers will be able incorporate nature into healing environments using evidence-based design. This goal is perfectly aligned with our center’s vision of ‘Leading Health Outcomes by Design.’ We are blessed with the support of a founder’s gift to kick-start this important field of research within health outcomes.”

— Rae Lynn Mitchell

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