Engaging with nature to promote health: new directions for nursing research

Authors

  • Patricia Hansen-Ketchum,

    1. Patricia Hansen-Ketchum MN RN Assistant Professor School of Nursing, Saint Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova Scotia, and PhD Candidate, Faculty of Nursing, University of Alberta, Canada
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  • Patricia Marck,

    1. Patricia Marck PhD RN Associate Professor Faculty of Nursing, University of Alberta, Faculty Leader, Clinical Research Unit, Royal Alexandra Hospital, and Adjunct Professor, John Dossetor Health Ethics Centre
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  • Linda Reutter

    1. Linda Reutter PhD RN Professor Faculty of Nursing, University of Alberta, Canada
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P. Hansen-Ketchum: e-mail: phketchu@stfx.ca

Abstract

Title. Engaging with nature to promote health: new directions for nursing research.

Aim.  The aim of this paper is to offer a conceptual framework for nature-based health promotion in nursing and provide related recommendations for future nursing research.

Background.  Empirical data suggest that interaction with nature has direct health benefits. When people attend to outdoor habitats, gardens and other forms of nature, they are more likely to engage in physical activity and other behaviours that improve health. Engaging with nature can even cultivate ecological sensibilities that motivate us to protect the health of our planet.

Data sources.  Multidisciplinary theoretical and research publications from 1985 to 2008 were examined in the development of the framework.

Discussion.  As the health of our planet continues to deteriorate, there is a pressing need for theoretically informed, ethical, sustainable ways of engaging with nature to promote human and environmental health. We adapt principles and socio-ecological thinking from the fields of nursing, health promotion and ecological restoration to delineate the essential elements of the proposed framework.

Implications for nursing.  Although evidence-based knowledge about nature-based health promotion is not readily used in nursing and health care, its development and application are critical to designing effective strategies to strengthen both human and environmental health.

Conclusion.  Nurses can use nature-based health promotion concepts to work with citizens, health practitioners and policymakers to explore and optimize reciprocal, health promoting relationships among humans and the natural environment. To the extent that nurses integrate nature-based health promotion into their research efforts, we can expect to contribute meaningfully to both environmental and human health in communities across the globe.

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