Engaging with nature: a participatory study in the promotion of health

  • Author / Creator
    Hansen-Ketchum, Patricia Anne
  • Research evidence suggests that engaging with nature can promote health by reducing stress, improving cognition, fostering social connectivity, and supporting healthy behaviours such as physical activity, healthy eating, and pro-environmental practices. Yet there are empirical data gaps about how community members engage with nature in their local context, what facilitates or inhibits access to outdoor places , and how health practitioners and decision-makers use evidence on the linkages between health and nature to inform their work. Using a participatory, community-based research design and adapting photographic methods from the fields of ecological restoration and health care, this dissertation study addressed these critical gaps. The study was conducted in rural Nova Scotia, a site that offered considerable access to natural environments. In phase one, an aggregate group of parents with young children (n=8) participated in photo narration and photo elicitation interviews and focus groups to explore how they engage with nature to promote their individual and family health. In phase two, local practitioners and decision-makers (n=16) engaged in photo elicitation focus groups to discuss and expand the analytic themes from phase one and to examine how they use evidence on the health benefits of engaging with nature to design community-based health promotion interventions. Critical analytic themes emerged from the dialectical analysis of data from both phases and offered insight into the value of restorative places and experiences in nature, the barriers and facilitators to connecting with the natural world, the ties between engaging with nature and ecological citizenship, and the proposed shifts in practice and policy norms and governance processes needed across sectors and citizen groups to simultaneously promote and protect the health of people and the natural world. The findings provided a unique view of ecologically-sound everyday access to restorative outdoor places as critical to the promotion of health. This paper-based dissertation details study findings and implications for research, practice, and policy through five manuscripts that together confer conceptual, evidence-informed, and analytic views of nature-based health promotion and provide insight into rigorous participatory photographic research methods for community engagement in mutual generation and exchange of knowledge.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2010
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Dr. Elizabeth Halpenny, Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation, University of Alberta
    • Dr. Kaysi Kushner, Faculty of Nursing, University of Alberta
    • Dr. Linda Reutter, Faculty of Nursing, University of Alberta
    • Dr. Renee Lyons, Bridgepoint Chair in Complex Chronic Disease Research TD Financial Group Scientific Director, Bridgepoint Collaboratory for Research and Innovation Professor Dalla Lana School of Public Health University of Toronto