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The Health Benefits of Nature

The Health Benefits of Nature
It’s one of those picture-perfect days and I’m on a shuttle bus with a group of parents and kids heading to Lake Chabot Regional Park in Oakland. Getting here on a Saturday morning included rushing through breakfast, dressing squirming kids, squeezing in errands, driving to the wrong location—argh!—and finally arriving at an outpatient clinic of the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland. A dozen other parents were there, settling their kids. I wondered about their harried mornings and checked my phone—a text from my husband said the kids were happily making a mess of the kitchen. Then Dr. Nooshin Razani, a big-hearted pediatrician on a mission, called the group together and, before we boarded the shuttle, asked us to rate our stress level on a scale of 0-5. Okay, mine: 3 or 4 (could be worse, I thought). “Take a deep breath,” she urged. “I give you permission to not answer your phone for three free hours.”

Soon we exit the highway into the rolling, golden hills leading to Lake Chabot Regional Park and a 5-year-old boy announces, “I’ve been to a lake before!” Razani’s goal is for her patients to make time in nature a regular part of their lives. The vast majority of them live below the poverty line and Razani, herself a busy mother of three as well as a clinical researcher, strongly believes spending an afternoon at the lake is worth their time and effort. And so, in partnership with the East Bay Regional Park…
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