Health and Nature
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Key Ideas

Nature doesn't just make us feel better: it also makes us well.

Accelerated in large part by the 2010 Healthy Parks, Healthy People Congress and the 2014 IUCN World Parks Congress Stream on Healthy Parks, Healthy People, there has been growing international and Canadian interest in linking the work of parks and protected areas with the health and wellbeing of people and communities. Healthy by Nature was a Canada-led initiative that has generated exciting initiatives from agencies such as BC Parks Foundation (and the Vancouver Healthy by Nature Charter) and the Ontario Parks Healthy Parks, Healthy People program. The Canadian Parks Council also reinforced this movement in their publication Connecting Canadians To Nature and a report by the the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society calls for health and nature to be forefront in the post-COVID world.

Some of this interest is driven by the notion that parks and protected areas could be more sustainably funded if they were connected to the relatively large public investment in the health care system . However, Healthy Parks, Healthy People is more than just a marketing exercise: there is significant scientific and traditional knowledge to support the idea that time in nature is good for human health. A recent article in the IUCN PARKS Journal offers a broad overview of the Healthy Parks, Healthy People movement in Canada, and includes supplementary material on bridging the evidence gap in practice and research that is a useful place to begin exploring this topic more deeply. A French-language report covering similar topics was created by the University of Montréal and supported by Sépaq. 

Energy for connecting health and nature is also being generated from outside parks. The Child and Nature Alliance of Canada and their Forest Schools Program are leading the way for nature-connection in learning, as is the Outdoor Play Canada research and practitioner network. The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment and Canadian Association of Nurses for the Environment are exceptional advocates for conservation, and parkprescriptions.ca is a new resource available to a growing range of Canadian parks and protected areas, allowing physicians to prescribe time in nature. 

The following key resources have been curated to highlight important ideas related to this resource page topic.

Mapping the Work

Contacts for linking health and nature within federal, provincial, or territorial parks and protected areas agencies.

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Champions and Innovators

CPPCL is grateful for a community of colleagues working in and helping build our understanding in this area of parks and protected areas leadership.

Send us a note if you want to be a champion or innovator. 

Parks and Protected Areas Researchers

Parks and Protected Areas Practitioners

  • Anne Craig, Ontario Parks,