A little breath instead of medicine?

by Amelie E-D on April 21, 2015 - 12:13am

Original title: In the future, doctors may tell you take two 'doses of nature' and call in the morning

Author: Ariana Eunjeung Cha

Date of publication: April 8th, 2015

< http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2015/04/08/doctors-orders-take-two-nature-doses-and-call-me-in-the-morning/ >


People are stressed about life. Nothing is easy and this stress increases for everybody, especially for people that are living in big cities. Unfortunately, it is not easy for them to take life easy because they do not really have resourcing places to go and spend time with nature because the cities are developing more and more.

Studies have shown that spending time outside helps for asthma and it is more likely to improve the level of physical activity. People are living better if they take the time to go outside. There is a new trend that is very popular for therapists: the “ecotherapy”, which is simply spending time outside with the greenery and take time for ourselves. The problem is that, within the 30 coming years, 70% of people are going to live in cities, according to the World Health Organization. This situation means that the majority of people will no longer be in contact with real nature in the majority of the cases. There is always the possibility of increasing the number of “green areas” in the cities, but it will never be like the real forests because of the pollution the cities. The air is not the same. To help people, the specialists are starting to measure what is a ‘’nature dose’’ to prescribe this like a medicine. It is important that people understand the importance of spending time outside because it can be really beneficial for the health! 


The article you have chosen to describe is very interesting. I agree with the article in that it is beneficial to one’s health to spend time outside. However, I do not think that spending time outside can be used “instead” of medical approaches to treat diseases, as your title suggests. For instance, asthma is not only caused by environmental factors, it is influenced by both genetics and epigenetics (more information can be found on http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20816181). I think that the article of the Washington Post should have mentioned epigenetics, which involves genetic control by factors other than the genetic makeup of the individual. Therefore, I think that, to treat an asthmatic patient, medical means should be used in combination with a plan for a healthy lifestyle that prevents asthma attacks, which includes limiting exposure to air pollution.

I think that it is a great idea to increase “the number of street trees in a neighborhood or percentage of vegetation cover in a landscape,” as the article suggests. I think that the city council cannot transform an entire city into forests to enhance human health, but that the council can adapt urban landscape to increase green areas.

That being said, it is not always easy for the city and urban planners to choose which infrastructure they can invest in. This becomes a moral dilemma when one has a clash in which one has to choose the right action amongst several possible actions using moral reasons. Should a lane be added to decrease traffic? Should a green park be added to diminish air pollution and increase the bonds between members of a neighborhood? Building a strong community in a neighborhood can eventually decrease stress levels in members of the community. This may help with asthma, since stress is a trigger for asthma. A decision can be made depending on the highest good, or summum bonum, in a teleological perspective. For example, in this case, if public health is the sommum bonum, a green park may be added. On the other hand, if the summum bonum is the greatest good for the greatest number (utilitarian perspective), the city may decide to add a lane instead of a green park, judging that a higher number of people may benefit from the addition of a lane than that of a green area.

As a tip for your next posts, avoid using generic sentences to begin a post, such as “People are stressed about life.” Also, when you mention that “increasing the number of “green areas” in the cities” will never be like real forests, it seems to me that you are suggesting that those living in other areas than cities are all living in forests, which, I am sure, is not what you meant. Pay particular attention to your phrasing.

Overall, I enjoyed reading your post.

This is a very interesting topic and is quite unique compared to many of the other posts on NewsActivist. One of the very prominent trends that seems to be on most people's minds these days is the whole idea of living healthy lifestyles. That is, eating healthy foods, exercising regularly and basically participating in activities that will improve one's overall well being.

What the article centers around is the idea that spending time outside in nature can bring on potential health benefits, whether physical, social or psychological. Obviously, like you said yourself, there are many people who live in cities and do not have easy or direct access to forested areas. Since 70% of people will be living in cities within the next 30 years (as predicted by your source) then society must make a decision on whether or not the incorporation of nature areas and forested areas should be included in their increasingly urbanized environment.

From utilitarianistic point of view, having these green areas (similar to New York's Central Park) would indeed benefit the most amount of people and therefore benefit humanity in a great way. Taking this, and adding the fact that being healthy is a common trend people's everyday lifestyle, it wouldn't be too far-fetched to say that the general public would support this idea.

Society will need to consider investing in the creation, or maintenance, of our green areas, national parks and forested lands. I would think that it would be a supported movement and that anyone who believes in a large benefit outweighing a smaller disadvantage (in this case it might be health and lifespan vs tax costs) would agree.

Thanks for your post!