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Univ. University of Washington’s Nature and Health program links environment and well-being
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Univ. University of Washington’s Nature and Health program links environment and well-being

Univ. of Washington program Nature and Health studies link between environment and well-being
The Sol Duc Falls in Olympic National Park, Washington. (Kevin Lisota Photo)

It all started out as a friendship over beers. Today, it is the University of Washington Nature and HealthInitiative is helping government agencies secure funding for multi-million-dollar projects.

Take the Mt. For example, take Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest or Snohomish County. These two counties recently received $18 million and $22 millions in funding and grants respectively. This is largely due to data collected by Nature and Health researchers.

Nature and Health studies how the environment and the human well-being of people. It has projects and studies across a variety of fields. It aims to be a driver for environmental health and technology innovation in the years ahead.

Origins of the group date back to a small number of scientists and researchers from UW who met in breweries with representatives of the outdoor and conservation industries. They discussed their interest regarding the relationship between human health, the environment, and human health.

Josh Lawler, Director of Nature and Health at University of Washington (UW Photo)

Doctors and policymakers joined forces, wrote a paper, and REI invested $1 million in 2018 to make the loose collaboration official. Director Josh LawlerMore than 300 people are now involved in Nature and Health.

Nature and Health’s stated goal is to understand the human-health benefits that nature contact has on humans and to translate that understanding into policies, programs, practices, and the design and implementation of healthcare, education, and community settings that are beneficial to all.

At the moment, the initiative focuses mainly on the research phase. The active studies include everything from using Twitter to study people’s moods to leveraging participative app design to encourage outdoor exploration for teens. This particular evolution is a result of a climate videogame program Lawler launched back in 2016.

Lawler, who is primarily an academic scientist, teaches at the School of Environmental and Forest sciences of UW and runs the Landscape Ecology and Conservation Lab. He is also a fellow with the Ecological society of America.

GeekWire was told by Lawler that he is passionate about using science and research to make a difference in the lives of people and communities beyond academia. Lawler is a natural director of Nature and Health because of his passion for science and collaboration.

The pandemic caused both disruption and change in Nature and Healths work. One of its current projectsIt is with The Trust for Public Land has been asked to examine the health implications of the Tacoma Green Schoolyards Project. It aims at making asphalt playgrounds in schools with low access to public parks accessible to the community.

However, green playgrounds are hard to study when students stay at home. While the community engagement and design process was successful in remote settings, not much happened over the past year according to Dr. Pooja Tandon, a UW researcher and professor at the Seattle Childrens Research Institute.

However, for other teams within the Nature and Health umbrella the pandemic offered an opportunity to use technology-based research methods. Spencer Wood is a senior research scientist at UWs eScience Institute. He studies trail popularity in order to inform land managers like the U.S. Forest Service, and the Washington Trails Association.

His team had to adapt to the pandemic. They created a software platform that allowed users to self-report trail information.

Wood and his team provided the Mt. The recent grants were made possible by Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, and Snohomish County.

Woods research and the grants that it helped to land are an example of Nature and Healths real impact. Lawler stated that Nature and Health is moving away from research to more concrete policy and design implementation. Nature and Health will continue to build a strong research base and work to maximize the health benefits of human interactions and nature for many years to come.

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