For more than a decade, the efficacy of adding therapeutic outdoor spaces to healthcare campuses has continued to gain traction among systems. While well-designed landscape elements—such as inviting building entries, healing gardens, walking trails, and vegetable gardens—can lead to better patient health, these elements can provide preventive health benefits, too.

New reimbursement models have created a shift of focus from treating illness to maintaining and improving health, so it’s an appropriate time to re-evaluate how site development of a healthcare campus can contribute to a proactive wellness strategy. The basic strategy of a flexible, efficient, and community-facing campus should give the landscape renewed relevance and purpose, providing multiple values and benefits.

For example, development of a “total health” environment is one way of supporting this paradigm shift. It would require a switch from a single-use land development scheme to an integrated, multiuse setting that allows medical facilities and campuses to become a hub for healthy community activities.

In turn, such programs encourage interaction with community members, promoting and supporting an educational message of wellness. In addition, access to other functions and services, such as a farmers market or an exercise path, can be just as valuable to building the groundwork for a healthy lifestyle.

There are many opportunities to create spaces supportive of this type of environment, including:

  • Healing gardens directly connected to the facility
  • Vibrant social gateway or plaza
  • Health-focused café with outdoor seating
  • Healthcare vegetable garden  with site-grown food for education and that’s used in the facility’s food service
  • Outdoor physical therapy rehabilitation spaces
  • Outdoor exercise classes
  • Park/arboretum
  • Community pavilion
  • Community gardens
  • Small forest/planting of trees
  • Multiuse walking trails

People who participate in hands-on activities and learn practical skills are more likely to cultivate a healthy lifestyle; therefore, healthcare providers should actively invite community members to participate in this type of wellness approach.

A multifunctional landscape development approach to accessing wellness-based outdoor opportunities can provide tangible health, social, and environmental benefits for all users, while putting us a step closer to creating a formula for a healthy lifestyle.