Image of student learning more about the nature prescription program at UC Davis. In this posed photo a provider reviews a nature rx worksheet with a student.
Professionals with UC Davis Student Health and Counseling Services provide prescriptions for nature to their patients as part of a holistic healthcare approach. The prescription includes a worksheet (shown here) where students can learn more about campus programs and setting goals for spending more time outdoors. (Anjie Cook/UC Davis)

UC Davis Launches Nature Prescription Program for Students

Initiative supports research on the important health benefits associated with spending time outside

Article originally published in Healthy UC Davis

In an age dominated by screens, hectic schedules, and stress, the therapeutic benefits of nature are gaining widespread recognition. UC Davis is at the forefront of this movement and introducing a groundbreaking pilot program. Providers with the university’s Student Health and Counseling Services, or SHCS, will be prescribing nature to their patients as part of their holistic care regimen.  

Image of a hand giving another hand a business-type card with a beautiful outdoor image of a bridge in the UC Davis Arboretum and includes the copy:  Nature Rx A Nature Prescription for your Health and Well-being. The card includes a QR code and wordmarks from the participating partners including the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden, Healthy UC Davis, and UC Davis Health and Counseling Services.
Students receiving a nature prescription as part of their healthcare treatment program will receive additional information with ideas for including at least 120 minutes of time in nature each week. (Anjie Cook/UC Davis)

This nature prescription program, also known as "Nature Rx," invites students to understand the healing power of nature and its impact on health. 

“Many may not realize the tangible health benefits of being outside and engaging with nature,” said Dr. Cory Vu, associate vice chancellor for Health, Wellness, and Divisional Resources. “Through Nature Rx, UC Davis is fostering a deeper connection with our outdoor environment while promoting positive health outcomes.”  

Nature's profound impact on health and well-being is well established. Research has shown nature's ability to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, while improving cognitive faculties, sleep quality, social connections and enhancing overall mental and physical health. The Nature Rx program at UC Davis leverages this intrinsic connection between human health and the environment, tapping into the therapeutic benefits found all around us whether on campus, in local parks, natural areas and open skies. 

Image of sunlight coming through the oak trees located in the UC Davis Arboretum's Peter J. Shields Oak Grove. It includes wordmarks from the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden, Healthy UC Davis and UC Davis Student Health and Counseling Services. The text asks did you know spending more time in nature improves your mental health and well-being? Ask your SHCS healthcare provider of counselor about Nature Rx and includes a QR code.
Posters like these, featuring images from throughout campus, will be on display in various locations. Students, or any members of the community, are welcome to begin their Nature Rx journey, by scanning the QR code for more information. (Anjie Cook/UC Davis)

"We have always believed that it is good for people's health to be outside enjoying our plant collections and gardens,” said Kathleen Socolofsky, assistant vice chancellor and director of the UC Davis Arboretum and Pubic Garden. “For years, we have stewarded all of our campus’s outdoor spaces as a living, breathing resources place for improving our mental health and fostering well-being. We are thrilled to see this nature connection validated, and are happy to be a partner in supporting students with this important program.” 

The Nature Rx program is not just about recommending time in nature; it is about integrating a holistic concept of health into healthcare practices. SHCS is on the cutting edge of this movement, with medical doctors and mental health counselors now able to prescribe time in nature as a part of patients' treatment plans. This innovative approach recognizes the importance of mental and emotional well-being alongside physical health, leading to more comprehensive care for students.  

“In my work, I routinely see the need for programs like this,” said Sydney Holmes, mental health promotions specialist with UC Davis Student Health and Counseling Services.  

“Between academic pressures and the challenges of adjusting to life in a new place, many students struggle with mental health issues. Programs like this that focus on evidence-based strategies to improve mental health are a huge asset to our whole campus community.”  

Getting a nature prescription is a simple yet impactful process. Patients can expect to discuss their well-being goals with their healthcare provider, who will then evaluate whether spending time in nature could benefit their overall health. If prescribed, patients can choose how much time they want to spend in nature each week while also receiving suggested resources for nature-based activities that include gardens and natural areas to explore on campus and in the local area.   

The UC Davis campus is a public garden that offers a diverse range of environments, from manicured gardens to native wildflower meadows, where individuals can immerse themselves in the tranquility of nature.   

"We are fortunate to have such a gorgeous campus, with so many places and opportunities to appreciate nature that are easily accessible to students and visitors. Sharing these places more widely and intentionally is exciting for us, and ties directly into our goals of promoting nature as a resource for well-being," said Stacey Parker, director of public horticulture and engagement at the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden.

This pioneering initiative signifies a significant stride in the university recognizing and leveraging the therapeutic benefits of nature for health and happiness. 

“As the program rolls out, we hope to expand it to employees, and beyond,” said Stacey Brezing, director staff and faculty health and well-being at UC Davis Safety Services.  

As UC Davis leads the way in embracing the transformative power of nature, it’s setting an inspiring example for other campuses and communities seeking to prioritize the health of their members in an increasingly complicated time.

UC Davis' nature prescription program is a collaboration between UC Davis Student Health and Counseling Services, the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden and Healthy UC Davis.

Primary Category