Across the country, we’re seeing a widespread decline in physical activity with the average adult spending less than 5% of their time outdoors. This indoor, sedentary lifestyle has led to increases in obesity, chronic disease, and mental illness and it is compounding social factors that further health inequity. At the same time, research has shown that being active in nature has benefits beyond exercising in a built setting. Nature promotes physical and mental health, social cohesion, and general well being. Studies show that benefits are even more pronounced for low-income communities.

At the Institute, we see parks and public lands as a critical, low-cost resource in tackling this growing health crisis. Since 2009, we have worked with park agencies, healthcare providers, and community organizations to build new partnerships that connect our most vulnerable communities to parks and public lands for their health and well being.

Healthy Parks Healthy People: Bay Area

In collaboration with East Bay Regional Park District and the National Park Service, the Institute’s Health program helped to found the Healthy Parks Healthy People: Bay Area collaborative in 2012, and currently serves as the collaborative’s administrative backbone.

Since 2013, the Healthy Parks Healthy People: Bay Area collaborative has implemented consistent, introductory, and free park programs serving over 6,000 residents across the Bay Area— 40% of which are first-time park users. These park programs are designed for high health need communities and have served as an important first step for getting these communities leading healthier and more active lives outdoors.

The Healthy Parks Healthy People: Bay Area collaborative is currently working to increase the presence of Park Prescription programming within the Bay Area. In support of this goal, the Institute, in collaboration with Healthy Parks Healthy People: Bay Area and Bay Area Moves!, convened the Health Outdoors! Forum in 2016. This event brought together 200 park agencies, public health agencies, community based organizations, and academic institutions from across the Bay Area to learn and share best practices for creating and implementing Park Prescription programming.

National ParkRx Initiative

At the national level, the Institute is helping to coordinate the National ParkRx Initiative, which is a collaboration of national partners and subject matter experts dedicated to using nature and public lands to improve both individual and community health. To learn more about the National ParkRx Initiative, visit

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Benefits of Nature

Health Reports