Freshwater Land Trust and UAB School of Public Health Team with National Allies to Combat Health Crisis
Cooperative Initiative Anchored by Wingspread Declaration
BIRMINGHAM, AL – Dr. Max Michael, Dean of the University of Alabama School of Public Health, and Wendy Jackson, Executive Director of the Freshwater Land Trust, have partnered with conservation and health leaders from across the country to address the disconnect between humans and the outdoors.
“People are now more disconnected from nature than ever before,” Wendy Jackson, executive director of the Freshwater Land Trust and Wingspread Declaration signatory, said. “It is our responsibility to shift our focus to reaffirm the important connection between human health with nature for future generations.”
This cooperative initiative is anchored by the Wingspread Declaration, a document signed by 31 of America’s leading health officials, academics and conservation-focused nonprofits, including Yale University, the National Land Trust Alliance, Kaiser Permanente, Children and Nature Network, and the Open Space Institute. The Declaration calls for action from health, environmental, academic, governmental and corporate actors to cooperatively reconnect people with the outdoors and secure new commitments to protect access to green spaces.
“This Initiative recognizes the importance of a livable environment for our health and well-being, including the opportunity to spend time outside enjoying the benefits of that environment,” Dr. Max Michael, Dean of UAB School of Public Health, said. “By signing this Declaration, it is hoped we bring further attention to the remarkable investments our community is making in creating the Red Rock Ridge and Valley Trail system, for example.”
This new initiative comes at a time when more than one-third of U.S. adults are obese, incurring $148 billion in medical costs annually and contributing to 18% of U.S. adult deaths. Publicly available data shows U.S. healthcare costs are the highest per capita in the world – and that amount continues to increase, particularly in Alabama and the southeastern United States.
Time outdoors is known to improve people’s well-being. People without access to the outdoors can be linked to higher rates of anxiety disorders and of mood disorders, such as depression. However, exposure to green space counters these tendencies. People who live near natural settings are likely to report better mental health; urban parks are known to lower stress and elevate mood; and studies have even linked green neighborhoods with lower rates of obesity in children and longer life spans in elders.
“Providing people with meaningful connections to parks, trails and green spaces create an environment where healthy choices are easy choices,” Jackson said. “These connections will transform the physical, economic, environmental and social well-being of our communities, and the Freshwater Land Trust is proud to be playing an active role in this important initiative with partners like UAB’s School of Public Health.”
Health and conservation leaders are discussing and supporting the Wingspread Declaration this week at milestone meetings in New Orleans and Sydney, Australia. Over 13,000 health providers at the American Public Health Association’s annual meeting in New Orleans and 5,000 parks and conservation professionals at the IUCN World Parks Congress in Sydney, Australia, will learn more about the Declaration and its goals.
Additional supporters are also responding to the Declaration’s call on health institutions to include nature in their practices and prescriptions; call on schools to ensure all children grow up connected to nature; call on elected officials and philanthropists to invest in parks, trails and green spaces; and call on employers to reconnect their employees with nature.
“We are fortunate and excited to be a part of this growing national movement that makes Birmingham a national leader in assuring everyone in our community reaps the health benefits of the outdoors,” said Dr. Max Michael.
Visit www.healthandnature.org to learn more about and endorse the Wingspread Declaration.
About the Freshwater Land Trust
The Freshwater Land Trust is a 501©(3) nonprofit organization that acquires, conserves and connects open spaces that are critical for the protection of rivers and streams and that provide recreational opportunities for the community. Its mission is the acquisition and stewardship of lands that enhance water quality and preserve open space. It is accredited by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, which recognizes it as meeting standards of excellence, upholding the public’s trust and ensuring that conservation efforts are permanent. The Freshwater Land Trust conserves land in Jefferson, Shelby, Blount, Chilton, Bibb, St. Clair, Tuscaloosa, and Walker counties. For more information, please visit www.freshwaterlandtrust.org.
About the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health
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