Health Policy

Joint Center Partners with Children & Nature Network

WASHINGTON, DC – The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies today announced the formation of a strategic partnership with The Children & Nature Network (C&NN) to improve the health outcomes for all communities by using the knowledge and expertise of each organization’s network of community leaders to promote access to green space.

The Children & Nature Network cultivates diverse leaders through its Natural Leaders initiative and connects children and families to nature through grassroots campaigns across the world.  The Joint Center, through its Place Matters initiative, builds the capacity of leaders and communities to identify and address, social, economic, and environmental conditions that shape health and life opportunities.

The goals of this new partnership will be threefold.  The first is to foster peer-to-peer learning between the Joint Center and C&NN’s networks, with each network teaching the other their respective strengths:  C&NN networks will share how to best connect communities with nature, and Place Matters teams will share ways to promote equity and understand the underlying conditions that shape health.  Second, the organizations plan to develop and institute a Place Matters Natural Leaders Fellowship, dedicated to build the capacity of diverse young leaders to both share the outdoor world with their community while learning about the conditions and forces that shape them.  Third, this partnership will convene local and national leaders to examine the intersections of nature, equity, and social justice and health, to develop a shared policy agenda that supports nature and health for all.

“There is a growing body of evidence that supports the claim that access to safe natural areas for recreation, gardening, and physical activity improves health across a wide variety of outcomes, including cardiovascular health, mental health, weight management, Attention Deficit Disorder, autism-spectrum disorders, and stress among children,” observed Dr. Autumn Saxton-Ross,  Program Director at the Joint Center in Washington, DC.  “Many of these conditions are more prevalent, and exact a higher toll, in communities of color.  These health disparities represent an urgent moral and practical challenge that we hope to answer by way of this innovative partnership.” Juan Martinez, Director of Leadership Development for the Children & Nature Network states, “We look forward to linking our leadership development training with the Joint Center to support diverse, young leaders as they positively impact community health through increased access to nature.”

While local contexts will inform the implementation of this partnership on the ground, identification of national evidence-based best practices will drive the tools, resources, training, and on-going support for all local grassroots leaders, with the goal of showing the utility of this approach for those promoting both nature and equity as determinants of health and healthy communities.

Founded in 1970, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies is a leading think tank on people of color and public policy.  The Joint Center uses research, analysis, and communications to improve the socioeconomic status and political participation of people of color, to promote relationships across racial lines, and to strengthen the nation’s pluralistic society.  To learn more, please visit

The Joint Center’s Health Policy Institute, initiated in 2002 with a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, works to advance health equity by improving opportunities for people of color to attain their maximum health status. The Joint Center’s Place Matters initiative builds the capacity of leaders and communities to identify and address the social, economic, and environmental conditions that shape health and life opportunities, and is well-known for its capacity to elevate the local and national dialogue on health equity, race and place.

Children & Nature Network was founded in 2007 by author Richard Louv and other leaders to lead a worldwide movement to create a world in which all children play, learn and grow with nature in their everyday lives. The organization is focused on healthy children in healthy communities, creating a new generation of nature-smart leaders, and building systems for grassroots change in communities across the world.