How can intact environments benefit human health? Dr. Christopher Golden, an ecologist and epidemiologist at Harvard, explores this through his research in planetary health. Planetary health is an emerging field that encompasses a wide “range of domains including nutrition, mental health, infectious disease, and non-communicable diseases.”
Using his long term case study research in Madagascar and the South Pacific as a lens, Dr. Golden will open the 2019 SHIFT Festival with a presentation on planetary health and “ the human health impacts of rapid environmental change”.
Working primarily in Madagascar, Dr. Golden has been conducting environmental and public health research since 1999, investigating, among other projects, how the decline in land-based wildlife affects food security and human nutrition and how to solve wildlife harvest unsustainability and local health crises that are closely linked.. He created a local research organization called MAHERY (Madagascar Health and Environmental Research).
Dr. Golden prefers to connect with nature through hiking and open-ocean swimming and for his first time in Jackson Hole is looking forward to hitting the trails, which you can even do as part of a special piece of the SHIFT program.
“There’s an obvious need for Nature As Medicine”, Dr. Rose Gowen believes. The city commissioner for the city of Brownsville, Tx (2019 SHIFT Official Selection) has worked tireless to connect science, city government, and the community. These partnerships have resulted in a rich integrated network of policy and programing throughout the city that enables and invites a healthy living.
The doctor enjoys cycling and hiking, which she can do on the 428-mile trail network that’s halfway through development in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Dr. Gowen was a leader in designing and developing the Lower Rio Grande Valley Active Plan, which leverages active tourism and active transportation strategies to improve the health and wellness of the region. The project was recently adopted as a Rails-to-Trails Conservancy TrailNation™project.
Dr. Gowen will be a part of the Case Studies think tank at SHIFT exploring the current funding strategies for preventative care nature interventions. She’ll speak on her experience spearheading partnership between the city of Brownsville, the UT School of Public Health, and various local business. Together, they created family-oriented active living programming such as the cycloBia series. Brownsville has hosted cycloBias since 2012 with as many as 12,000 in attendance at each event.
“I try to get out daily” Courtney Schultz, PhD says. “Whether it’s rock climbing, paddle boarding, or cycling. I’ve even been known to do some midweek backyard camping with my dogs when life doesn’t permit a weekend trip!”
The young executive director knows the value of time spent outside on mental and physical well being, and works to bring that into everyday life for other people. Her consulting firm, Health and Technology Partners LLC, is changing the way communities approach healthcare by working with healthcare providers, communities, and land managers to integrate nature exposure into the local healthcare system.
“Nature as medicine, to me, is the space between traditional healthcare, intuition, and scientific evidence where holistic healthcare emerges to meet each individual where they are” Courtney says, it “provides [individuals] the opportunity to engage with nature for positive health outcomes that is equitable and accessible.” She’s spent over a decade of her life leading research projects in precisely that, and will speak from experience as one of the panelists at the Best Practices for Parks Rx workshop Day 3 of SHIFT.
Drawing from her experience and work implementing nature-based physical activity programs, Courtney hopes to bring” a perspective on the importance of research in shaping and redefining how we collaboratively bring healthcare providers, park and recreation professionals, and community members together to foster the creation of individualized approaches to nature as medicine.”