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Center for Nature and Health

The Center for Nature and Health (CNH) improves health and health equity through increasing access to nature. We conduct original research relating to nature and health and promote interdisciplinary relationships in order to take patients into nature for health.

Find Us

The Center for Nature and Health offers a unique opportunity to serve families who have been most impacted by health disparities and often have the least access to nature. We have created some of the first ever validated protocols for physicians to integrate nature-based behavioral interventions into their practices. Through innovative partnerships, we extend access to nature for patients and communities served by our hospital.

What We Do

  • Translational Research
    Through research, we seek to understand how more public health and health care systems can use in nature in healing. We work to gather thought leaders through mentorship and community relationships, to create a research agenda and collaborative approach for generating important research questions, and answering questions through high quality, prospective research.
  • Provide Clinical Care for Vulnerable Populations
    In partnership with the East Bay Regional Park District, the Primary Care Clinic at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland became one of the first in the nation to refer patients to the outdoors for health. The program, called Stay Healthy In Nature Everyday (SHINE), has served hundreds of patients and their families. We continue to build partnerships to give patients access to nature and advocate for the rights of patients in outdoor spaces.
  • Build the Field of Nature Champions
    Build the field of nature champions. At the Center for Nature and Health, we are developing training modules, replicable protocols, and other tools that can be used by public health departments, medical practitioners, and others. As opposed to a toolkit model, we aim to support clinicians as future thought leaders and clinical scientists in nature and health.
  • Advocate for Nature as a Public Health Priority
    We proudly join in the movement to increase access to nature by writing, speaking, and participating in advocacy groups such of Parks Now!, California Outdoor Engagement Coalition, and Healthy Parks Healthy People Bay Area.

 

 
 The REI Foundation has awarded a grant to support research by Dr. Nooshin Razani and her team at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland's Center for Nature and Health. Below are REI Co-op Journal essays featuring the Center's work.
REI Blog: A Dose of the Outdoors
New research shows park prescriptions—a physician’s recommendation to spend time outdoors—can help reduce stress among low-income patients. These findings are among the latest in a growing body of work examining nature’s impact on our physical and mental health. Read more
REI blog: Prescribing Nature for Health
Dr. Nooshin Razani's research looks at nature’s impact on children’s health and development, especially in low-income communities. Read more

The Team


Nooshin Razani, MD

Nooshin RazaniNooshin Razani, MD serves as director of the Center for Nature and Health at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland. She is leading a team of clinicians conducting a randomized clinical trial to examine how to operationalize a park prescription program in a low-income setting.

Since 2014, Dr. Razani has prescribed time outdoors to her pediatric patients and their families as preventive medicine. The results of the first study, which was published in the peer-reviewed PLOS ONE in February 2018, showed reduced stress in the parents of pediatric patients at a clinic serving low-income families. The randomized clinical trial is the first of its kind. It compared the effect of supported park outings versus independent park prescriptions with the goal of learning how to operationalize a park prescription program in a low-income setting. Dr. Razani hopes these results along with ongoing research will eventually lead to evidence-based nature prescriptions.

Maoya Alqassari

Maoya Alqassari served as research coordinator for the Stay Healthy In Nature Everyday clinical trial and stayed on as program coordinator for the Stay Healthy In Nature Everyday monthly nature outings. Her personal outreach and support of families remain an integral piece to the success of the program.

Rachel Gilgoff, MD MPH

Rachel Gilgoff, MD, FAAP is a board-certified child abuse pediatrician who has worked at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland since completing her fellowship training in 2007. She has expertise in the area of training and as well as program and curricula development. As a former Academy of Violence and Abuse Scholar and one of the Principal Investigators on The Bay Area Research Consortium’s PEARLS (Pediatric ACEs and Resiliency Study), she has co-developed and is currently piloting “The Resiliency Clinic,” an integrated mental and physical health group pediatric clinic. Dr. Gilgoff is dedicated to the prevention of child abuse and helped to update the most recent release of the California Attorney General’s Office Child Abuse Prevention Handbook. She is part of the Office of Emergency Services Children’s Justice Act Task Force, a multi-disciplinary team disseminating funding to agencies helping victims of crime. She is also passionate about teaching and has given a variety of lectures throughout the state of California to help inform doctors, nurses, social workers, lawyers, police officers and college students about drug endangered children, physical and sexual abuse, adverse childhood experiences, and the prevention of child abuse. Nature has always been a big part of her life, and she recognizes the powerful impact nature can have on calming an overactive stress response system and treating trauma.

Morgan Green, MD

After graduating from Oakwood University in Huntsville, Alabama, Dr. Morgan Green went on to earn his medical degree at Loma Linda University in Southern California. He is currently a UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland Pediatric Leadership for Underserved Populations resident. As part of his PLUS residency, Dr. Green is developing a resident curriculum for nature and health and helps run the Stay Healthy In Nature Everyday program. He summarizes his experience in SHINE: "A humbling aspect of these nature outings is watching my paradigm shift in my relationship with the families I serve. As a new doctor, I’m so accustomed to interacting with my families in a position of fear. They are afraid about why they’re in the hospital, afraid about whether or not their child will live a full life or afraid about how they will take care of a child with a complex or chronic medical condition. These nature experiences help me see my families in a position of strength. Watching how they love their children despite the crippling amount of stressors they face every day. How wonderfully they carry themselves despite life experiences that are overwhelming. Moreover, I love seeing the resilience and power the families of Oakland carry."

Jen Matthews, MD

Jen Matthews, MD is a Faculty Scholar in the clinical training program at the Osher Center to become an integrative pediatrician. Dr. Matthews is also an attending physician in Adolescent Medicine and Primary Care at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland, where she has worked for eight years. Dr. Matthews’ specialties include whole-body wellness and nutrition, reproductive health, and helping families navigate complex social and emotional issues.

Dr. Matthews received her Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry from California Polytechnic State University and went to medical school at the University of California, Davis, where she served as a Co-director of the Imani Clinic, a student-run health clinic. She did a Pediatric Residency at Children’s Hospital in Oakland, where she worked with Phat Beets Produce, a food justice organization, to create several nutritional programs. She started a community garden near the hospital for patients and neighbors to grow food and build community and learn about food justice, and established and ran a program for teens from the hospital to learn about growing food, cooking, and food justice. She also worked to create a hospital-based farmer’s market, and produce a voucher system for patients to have access to fresh fruits and vegetables.