Eugenia South, MD, MSHP: COVID-19 and Nature

August 3, 2020

Being outside is safer than being inside with a lot of people.

It’s interesting because what we are seeing more and more with COVID is that being outside is one of the safest places to be—much safer than being inside with a lot of people. -Eugenia South, MD, MSHP, assistant professor of emergency medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

In a recent interview with HCPLive®, South said it has been interesting to hear more people talking about spending more time outside and the positive effects it has had on their mental health, stress, and anxiety levels. It is extremely vital for us as a country right now to have a safe place to be outside.

Even for South, she can feel increased levels of stress or anxiety on days she is unable to spend a lot of time outside.

With the benefits of nature, especially now, it is necessary to realize not everyone has a suitable green space outside. There is a need for more green spaces, and health systems can and should invest in local green space in their community.

“It’s important to partner with the community, including Community Development Organizations who are on the ground and thinking about development in their neighbors and other community leaders to figure out what they want, where they want it, and what that looks like,” South said.

Greening, however, could look like gentrification, she added. And in communities undergoing such transformation, it might not be best to add the spaces to those areas, even though it should not be thought of as a tool for gentrification. Instead, there should be a focus on underserved populations and those who are far from gentrification who have worse health outcomes could benefit most from greening.