The Children and Nature Initiative

kids looking up in trees - Jerry DavisChronic health conditions, such as obesity and asthma, are on the rise among America's youth. Research indicates that unstructured outdoor activities may improve children’s health by increasing physical activity, reducing stress, and serving as a support mechanism for attention disorders. The Forest Service and the National Environmental Education Foundation are taking action for children’s health by addressing two important issues: preventing serious health conditions like obesity and diabetes and reconnecting children to nature.

The Children and Nature Initiative

The Children and Nature Initiative educates pediatric health care providers about prescribing outdoor activities to children. The initiative connects health care professionals with local nature sites so they can refer families to safe and easily accessible outdoor areas.

Theprescription clip art program develops Nature Champions among pediatric health care providers around the country who write “nature prescriptions” to encourage children and their families to go outside. These pediatric health care providers (pediatricians, pediatric nurses and nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and school nurses) refer families to a growing network of Forest Service Children’s Forests by writing actual prescriptions, advising patients to visit Children's Forests. Active nature programming is provided at these Children’s Forests by Forest Service personnel and other NGO partners.

US Forest Service Role

A Nature Champion is identified in close proximity to each of the Children’s Forest sites. Forest Service professionals connect and collaborate with their local Nature Champions. The Nature Champions are taught about the health benefits of nature, the tools and resources available to train other health care providers, and prescribing nature to their patients. Each local Nature Champion and the Children’s Forest team develop an action plan for their community and track visits by pediatric patients and their families.