Open Voices Blog

Archives for posts tagged as "Health"

Holistic Care on The Green Road

09/20/16 | View Comments

The grocery store, your city buildings, the trees lining the main street in your neighborhood, the leaves in your driveway. The role of these everyday physical spaces and places are often taken for granted. Yet, by now we’ve established that an environment can support health and healing, or hinder it. The most straightforward example, of course, could be the hospital. For hundreds of years humans have built and cultivated complex environments intended to support healing. The design of healing spaces has changed throughout history, often according to values, beliefs, scientific knowledge, and technology.

Early temples dedicated to the Greek god of healing, Asclepius, were built in pastoral settings with mineral springs, bathing pools, gymnasiums, and healing gardens.

Dedicated temples can be seen today in the Greek countryside of the once city-state of Epidaurus. This World Heritage Site dates from the 4th century BCE and is a remarkable example of design devoted to healing. Here people would come to worship, lodge, recreate, and heal. The use of a garden or hot springs as a healing place is also evident in other early Asian and Roman cultures.

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Youth Health and Nature

07/05/16 | View Comments

This month consists of an exciting repertoire of respected scientists casting their vote in favor of nature engagement.

In an increasingly urbanized planet, close and consistent connection to nature has become rare in many places. Millions of people spend hours working indoors, driving or riding public transportation. In order to minimize unsustainable urban sprawl, cities have become increasingly dense, with living and working spaces layered on top of each other and encroaching on parks and other green spaces.

 “We want to reimagine cities as places of nature. There is already so much nature in cities – trees, birds, parks, aquatic habitats – but there is a lot more we can do to understand, protect and care about that.” – Tim Beatley, University of Virginia.
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Overlapping Benefits of Green Infrastructure

03/08/16 | View Comments

Urban greening initiatives are in operation or in development around the globe. In a roundtable this past week from Nature of Cities, David Maddox reminds us “…The word landscape conveys a richer meaning that includes, of course, the aesthetics of nature and the out of doors, but also the organization and design or infrastructure, the biophysical and social services of ecosystems, the livability of communities, and the justice aspects of how our living environments are (or are not) democratically decided upon and created.”

Last week we briefly reviewed the history of the physical implementation of U.S. urban infrastructure. Effective technological innovations in transportation, communications, energy, and environmental services (water, wastewater, garbage disposal) enabled economic growth, and contributed to the physical transformation of city planning and development. Although hinted, we didn’t delve into the social or non-human benefits from infrastructure development. But one doesn’t need to search far to learn how sanitary systems dramatically changed the lives of urban dwellers.

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How to Add Nature to Your Work

11/10/15 | View Comments

There is a good chance you spent the majority of your day today in an indoor work environment. For many, this means you are indoors with limited access to natural light, fresh air, or window views. In a global report on workplace environments in 16 countries, 42% of 7600 employees had live plants in the office but 47% had no natural light. A fifth of these respondents reported having no natural elements in their office at all.


A common hypothesis used by business leaders and supported by research is that those who are more satisfied in their jobs are also more productive and more engaged employees. There is evidence that higher subjective wellbeing and job satisfaction at work are positively related to job performance, productivity, and organisational citizenship (e.g. being cooperative, friendly and trustworthy), and are negatively related to employee turnover and absenteeism. 1

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A Pathway to Health: Nature Sacred Research Project Provides New Leads 

09/01/15 | View Comments

New research from a Nature Sacred partner, Frances Kuo at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, hints at a central pathway linking human health and time spent in nature.

Taking a walk in the park, going for a hike, or watching a tree sway in the wind feels intuitively relaxing. Health and nature research takes this a step further by asking how much, how often, and under what conditions humans benefit from spending time outside. Understanding what is happening outside of our awareness is where the scientific process steps in. In an era where more and more people are moving into cities, it is certainly worth our time to know how to build healthy urban spaces. And it is certainly worthwhile to assess the causes and correlations of nature-based health outcomes.

What conditions in our urban green spaces promote health? Exercising outside, breathing cleaner air, robust biodiversity? Does resting in a nearby park promote better sleep, increased social ties, or stronger immune systems? Kuo’s research review suggests nature’s ability to enhance immune functioning may be the major reason behind a host of health benefits.

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Supporting Elder Health in our Communities

07/07/15 | View Comments

In our Open Voices blog we share insight from leaders in our communities who are advancing what it means to have sacred, open green spaces in our cities. This month we examine the health needs of older Americans and the array of healthy experiences found in Nature Sacred spaces.

As the older U.S. adult population continues to increase and diversify, there is a need to provide various ways to understand and promote wellness. Eighty percent of our U.S. population live in cities and towns. As the population continues to concentrate in urban areas we must seriously consider the role of urban environments in our everyday health. For our older members of society, generally those 65 and older, the health benefits of urban green spaces can play a meaningful role in quality of life.

Never before have so many people lived for so long. Life expectancy has nearly doubled over the last century, and today there are 35 million Americans age 65 and older. The aging of the population—in past decades and in the foreseeable future—presents both a challenge and an opportunity.
— Director, National Institute on Aging

elder from ee paper

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Constructing a Happy City: An Interview with Charles Montgomery

01/08/14 | View Comments

Charles Montgomery will be the first to admit to you that he did not start off as an urban planner or a neuroscientist. He started his journey that led to his most recent book, Happy City, as a curious journalist wanting to learn more about what it means to be happy and how our environment, social and physical, plays a role in happiness.

His curiosity led him down a path where he learned more about urban design, the emerging science of happiness and how the two overlap. He has used the insights gained from his research to drive experiments such as those mentioned below with the BMW Guggenheim Lab, as well as in advising urban planners, students and policy-makers around the world including the Canada, England and the U.S.

Open Voices had the opportunity to talk with Montgomery about his work and how he sees the connections between environment and happiness being applied to green spaces in urban communities.

Open Voices:  To start off, how have you developed such an interesting intersection of interests with urban planning and researching happiness?

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Open Voices News Roundup: January 6

01/06/14 | View Comments

Every week, we bring you the latest news in placemaking, landscape architecture, the nature-mental health link, and much more. Check back each week for new roundups and items.

Urban Nature: How to Foster Biodiversity in World’s Cities
“A few years ago in Baltimore County, Maryland, environmental staffers were reviewing a tree-planting proposal from a local citizens group. It called for five trees each of 13 different species, as if in an arboretum, on the grounds of an elementary school in a densely-populated neighborhood. It seemed like a worthy plan, both for the volunteer effort and the intended environmental and beautification benefits. Then someone pointed out that there were hardly any oaks on the list, even though the 22 oak species native to the area are known to be wildlife-friendly. Local foresters, much less local wildlife, could barely recognize some of the species that were being proposed instead…Though it may be too soon to call it an urban wildlife movement, initiatives focused on urban biodiversity seem to be catching on. The U.S. Forest Service, which once laughed off the idea that anything urban could be wild now supports a growing urban forest program.”

A Dose Of Nature Helps City Dwellers Fight Their Need For Instant Gratification

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Open Voices News Roundup: December 23

12/23/13 | View Comments

Every week, we bring you the latest news in placemaking, landscape architecture, the nature-mental health link, and much more. Check back each week for new roundups and items.

Hiking in a Winter Wonderland
“Just because temperatures have dropped doesn’t mean outdoor efforts to elevate your heart rate should take a nose dive, too. New York City offers many walking trails and paths through scenic, wooded parks and along breathtaking waterways. “Winter is a great time to get out and see the parks in a new way once the trees have shed all of their leaves,” said Sarah Aucoin, director of the Urban Park Rangers program, which offers guided hikes and walks in the city’s park all year. “You can see wildlife and get your heart pumping at the same time.” If you struggle to stay active in the winter, walking may inspire you to get outdoors. Dr. Susan Kansagra, deputy commissioner for the division of health promotion and disease prevention at the New York City health department, said that regular walking helps reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, osteoporosis, and colon and breast cancer.”

Improve Your Health with the Forest Therapy

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Open Voices News Roundup: December 2

12/02/13 | View Comments

Every week, we bring you the latest news in placemaking, landscape architecture, the nature-mental health link, and much more. Check back each week for new roundups and items.

How San Francisco Is Changing the Way People Think of Green Space
“Tables and chairs sit neatly arranged on a wooden platform in the heart of San Francisco’s Mission District. When the sun is shining, customers spill out of cafes and restaurants and crowd onto the platform. But this isn’t just outdoor seating. It’s a park. The platform is part of San Francisco’s Pavement to Parks program, a collaboration between the city planning department and a number of other municipal agencies, including the mayor’s office. The program converts squares of pavement into plazas and postage-stamp-sized parks, called parklets. It started four years ago as a kind of experiment and has since become a fixture of civic life in San Francisco.”

Michigan: Leslie Science & Nature Center Teams with Ann Arbor Hospitals to Help Patients Heal

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    We are a private nonprofit that supports, informs, and inspires the creation of publicly accessible urban green spaces. We believe that every city resident needs nearby green space to provide opportunities for mindfulness, respite, and renewal. The Foundation has issued its final grants to build five Open Spaces Sacred Places and research the impacts on a variety of users with the hope that the powerful connection between nature, spirit and human wellbeing will be scientifically proven.

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