Nature Can Significantly Benefit Children’s Health

By Rachel Sun

A literature review from Washington State University of 296 studies shows that access to nature can significantly benefit children’s health, especially for kids in marginalized communities.

For many children, health outcomes are largely impacted by the income, health care access, and nutrition of their families. But what if there was a way for a city’s planning department to improve the health of children in a community?

Amber Fyfe-Johnson, an assistant professor with WSU Institute for Research and Education to Advance Community Health, says that is possible. She is the lead author of a study published in the journal of Pediatrics, which shows access to nature has what health experts call an equigenic effect — serving to counteract the negative health impacts experienced by people in lower income brackets.

The exact reason for that effect is still being hypothesized, but what is clear is that increasing access to nature, particularly in marginalized communities, is critical.  Fyfe-Johnson says, “Nature and access to nature is not a nicety, it is a necessity. And if we know that, we have a tremendous amount of confidence that being outside is healthy for kids. That means that it should be equally accessible to all children.”

She says she hopes that moving forward, the study will help inform parents, policymakers, city planners, school officials and pediatricians.