By: Aanisah Husain
For The Diamondback

The University of Maryland’s public health school hosted a virtual panel on Thursday to provide the campus community with tips and resources on how to improve health, practice self-care and create a work-life balance.

The discussion focused on nature and how it improves health and mental well-being.

Panelists Dr. Jennifer Roberts, an associate professor in kinesiology, and Dr. Shannon Jette, an associate professor in kinesiology, presented on a program known as NatureRx, which launched on Earth Day 2019.

“[NatureRx] is based on the premise that time spent in nature is therapeutic and contributes to mental health and wellbeing,” Jette said, adding that research has shown being out in nature lowers levels of depression, stress levels, anxiety, rumination and hypertension.

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However, Roberts noted many Americans don’t have access to nature.

“Nature isn’t owned by anyone,” Roberts said. “This is a privilege everyone should be able to enjoy.”

NatureRx has partnered with the University Health Center and the counseling center to share and explore the benefits of NatureRx prescriptions, which recommends going out into nature as part of an individual’s treatment.

Dr. Rachel Rosenberg Goldstein, an assistant professor at the MIAEH in the public health school, discussed the health benefits of gardening. Goldstein conducted research on the impact gardening had on peoples’ anxiety levels during the pandemic.

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Goldstein said she found gardeners tend to have lower levels of anxiety compared to non-gardeners.

“This is important because we have all been impacted by COVID-19, whether we or someone we love has been sick, or just learning to navigate this new world filled with masks, Zoom meetings,” Goldstein said. “All of these changes have impacted mental health.”

The panel was facilitated under the happiness and wellness initiative created by the public health school, which was launched in spring 2020.

“Our mission for the happiness and wellness initiative is for us to proactively strengthen health and wellness, while prioritizing resiliency through strength-based communications, training, research and assessment,” said Erin McClure, the director of operations and chief of staff in the public health school.

Boris Lushniak, the dean of the public health school, emphasized how focusing on all aspects of health is important to the campus body.

Lushniak said the initiative emphasizes all aspects of health for the community body.

“[The initiative is] not just about the world of the School of Public Health,” Lushniak said. “It’s our whole community.”

CORRECTION: Due to an editing error, a previous version of the story misstated that Shannon Jette was an assistant professor at the Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health. She is an associate professor in the Department of Kinesiology. This story has been updated.