Bringing Health and Nature to the Public Realm

January 9, 2018

Can public space be shaped to support human health and well being?

The pedestrian realm of a city encompasses indoor and outdoor public spaces as well as privately operated spaces open to the public. Whether they are sidewalks, parks, or trails, bridges, gardens, or hardscape plazas (or even building atriums and malls) these spaces have a profound effect on human health. A growing body of research shows that contact with the natural world has measurable health benefits for users.

Moving beyond the well-touted economic and environmental benefits of public green space, the panelists took a deeper look at the qualities of those spaces (indoors as well as out) and ways to enhance their connection to human health, including innovative programming, biophilic design, and eco-therapy.

CM | 1.0

PDF of PowerPoint presentation (pdf)


Stella Tarnay

Stella Tarnay is an urban planner with over 25 years of experience in sustainability innovation and green building. She has worked in the public sector in Washington, D.C., and Arlington County, Virginia. In 2014 she co-founded Biophilic DC, a project to bring the benefits of nature-based experience into urban policy and architectural practice. Tarnay has served as adjunct faculty in GWU’s Sustainable Landscape Design Program and at Boston Architectural College, and has written articles for Urban Land magazine and other publications. She holds a bachelor's degree in City and Regional Planning from the University of Virginia, and completed her graduate studies in City and Regional Planning at Cornell University. Tarnay is a steering committee member of the Biophilic Cities Network.


Tamberly Conway

Tamberly Conway holds a B.S. in Wildlife Management from McNeese State University. She received a M.S. in Forest Recreation Management, and a PhD in Forestry, with a focus on Human Dimensions in Natural Resources, from Stephen F. Austin State University. Conway serves as the partnerships, diversity and inclusion specialist for the U.S. Forest Service Headquarters Conservation Education Program. Her work focuses upon creating both traditional and non-traditional partnerships in conservation education and community engagement to reach diverse audiences with conservation messages, programs, and stewardship opportunities.


Robert Zarr, MD

Robert Zarr is a board-certified pediatrician at Unity Health Care located in Washington, D.C., where he cares for low-income and immigrant populations. He is founder and medical director of Park Rx America, a community health initiative to prescribe nature to patients and families to prevent and treat chronic disease and promote wellness. He previously served as the Park Rx Advisor to the National Park Service in his national advocacy to connect people to parks.


John Henderson

John Henderson is a certified parks and recreation executive and city planner with over 25 years of experience in parks and recreation. Henderson earned a Juris Doctor degree from The John Marshall Law School, a bachelor's in Community Planning from the University of Cincinnati, and a certificate in Public Performance Measurement from Rutgers University. He also holds certifications in public participation, mediation, and arbitration and is a licensed attorney. Henderson recently became executive director of Park Rx America, a nonprofit that promotes the park prescription model.