Kids and adults enjoy a sunny outdoor presentation under the trees.

Center for Nature and Health at University of California, San Francisco

The work of Dr. Nooshin Razani and the Center for Nature and Health at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital are informed by the persistent fact that access to the outdoors is not equitable. Children of color, children from low-income families, children who live in urban areas, and children with disabilities all face obstacles to accessing and feeling welcome in nature. We help children and families tap into unstructured play and reinvigorate their cultural connection to the outdoors, support health-care providers in using nature as a tool for physical and mental health, advance a rigorous scientific case for nature interventions, and advocate for policy changes to support equitable access to nature for these communities.

Their values begin with cultural humility, which is embodied by a curiosity about the person you’re interacting with, an awareness of the power dynamics at play, and a willingness to address the -isms (e.g., racism, classism, sexism) that create barriers.

Their second value is striving to create spaces that are hate-free and safe for kids and their families to experience nature. Respect is a big component of how Dr. Razani and the Center build relationships with the community. They show up and consistently keep showing up.

Their third value lies in unstructured play. The Center holds very few expectations of the people who participate. They do not hold them to benchmarks or numerical outcomes, but simply strive to remove barriers and welcome people to explore and reinvigorate the connections to nature that we all carry within us.

The Center for Nature and Health continues to conduct research on the benefits of time outdoors. Our goal is to share it with the larger community as a source of knowledge about the benefits of access and connection to nature. We are writing a practice paper on early childhood adversity (ACES) for the California surgeon general, quantifying the ways that nature can be both preventative and curative.

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