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School & Program Updates

School & Program Updates

Maryland: Launches NatureRx@UMD Initiative

On Earth Day 2019, the University of Maryland School of Public Health launched NatureRx@UMD, an initiative that encourages students, faculty and staff to take advantage of the University of Maryland campus’ status as an arboretum (so named by the American Public Gardens Association in 2008) by getting outside to relieve stress and anxiety and benefit their overall health.

Spearheaded by kinesiology assistant professor Dr. Jennifer Roberts and associate professor Dr. Shannon Jette, Nature Rx@UMD was inspired by the national Park Rx America movement, which was launched by pediatrician Dr. Robert Zarr and urges health care providers to prescribe time outside as part of a preventative or therapeutic treatment plan for patients.

Taking a few minutes outside to decompress can be “another option for the ways students can deal with mental distress,” said Dr. Roberts. “Much of the research has shown several public health benefits from spending time in nature…not only with respect to mental health, but also physical health.”

NatureRx@UMD will eventually include a club to teach students best safety practices for outdoor activities, and the organizers are discussing a possible undergraduate course focused on the mental and physical health benefits of exposure to the natural world. The team is also working with the University Health Center, University Recreation and Wellness, and other partners to help incorporate nature into students’ routines.

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