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by Dr. Ventra Asana, Field Team Manager

We are now several months into the Covid-19 pandemic and as the holidays beckon, we must be extremely careful to limit our exposure to anyone outside our immediate “pod” of friends or family. Nevertheless, scary as this is, we must hunker down and figure out ways to thrive the next few months. Here are a few things to help you plan ahead as winter approaches:

  • Make plans to enjoy the holiday season: Even though we’re unable to spend the holidays like in the past, we can still have a good time. Plan a contest with friends and family on who can assemble the prettiest (or weirdest) holiday decorations and share them on social media. Don’t forget to plan for a festive meal, whether you cook it yourself or support local businesses using carryout.
  • Devise a health plan: Ask yourself, “what are my plans to get healthy or stay healthy”? Plan to “go outside” even when it’s cold. Just getting fresh oxygen has many benefits, including increasing energy, and improving mental sharpness. Include a new winter activity like ice skating, building a snowman, walking in the snow, or exploring a park in your neighborhood.
  • Make plans for the New Year: What do you envision for the coming year? At some point a vaccine will have arrived and we will slowly come out of restrictions. Plan for what you want to accomplish in 2021, especially the first six months. Will you go see family when it’s safe again? Or will you finally explore your own city’s cultural and historical sites? Dream about what might be next for you.
These are a few ideas that I believe will contribute to a more meaningful holiday experience under the current conditions. Yes, we are all tired, but making plans can help us to cope better. And one day very soon, we’ll look up and we will be able to come outside again to be together with each other, and to never forget how precious we really are to one another.

The Nature Gap (July 21, 2020)

Clean drinking water, clean air, public parks and beaches, biodiversity, and open spaces are shared goods to which every person in the United States has an equal right both in principle and in law. Nature is supposed to be a “great equalizer” whose services are free, universal, and accessible to all humans without discrimination. In reality, however, American society distributes nature’s benefits—and the effects of its destruction and decline—unequally by race, income, and age.

Website Message to Participants of the StAND Health Study

Written by Dr. Ventra Asana, Field Team Manager

To our participants, we would like to let you know that we are thinking of you! The year 2020 is unlike any year that we have ever seen. The virus Covid-19 – also called the “novel coronavirus” – has claimed over 100,000 lives in the United States and over 5 million around the world. Although death rates have fallen in the City of Detroit, we will still be cautiously reopening businesses for a while.

We must continue to be very diligent to practice safe social skills of wearing a mask around others, keeping at least 6 feet away in social distance, and washing our hands as directed. Even so, it will be a while before we fully return to a “new normal” of eating out, shopping, and sending our students back to school.

Because of these drastic changes we want to let you know that for our StAND participants we have had to make changes to our services because of Covid-19.

For 2020 our team will be unable to see you in person for your health services. Instead, we will be distributing the kits to your homes in a “contact-less” way for you to obtain your samples, which we will pick up without you having to be close to our drivers.

You are very important partners in our effort to improve the quality of life for Detroiters. We want to continue to contribute to healthy living for everyone. Of course, we still want to gift you a small token of our appreciation as we have done in the past.

Please help us to keep the work going and we ask that you still join us in this study. Thank you for your time and REMEMBER: please continue to stay safe and stay alive!

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A symbol of spring and a sign of hope -- Daffodils bloom across Detroit. Get outside and enjoy nature! Watch this video highlighting the work of Barry Burton of Detroit Parks and Recreation Department.

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Dear StAND Participants,

Although times are uncertain with the rise of concern surrounding Coronavirus, we want you to know that we hope you are safe, healthy and well. Below are resources that may help during this time. We hope to see you in the near future. In the meantime, stay safe and be well.

Staying Fit and Connecting with Nature During COVID-19:

COVID-19 Resources:

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At the time of this writing our world is in the grip of a dire pandemic stemming from Covid-19, also called the “coronavirus”. We have learned about its rapid movement around the world claiming lives, first in China, then Italy, Spain and now the United States and many other parts of the globe. Further, because the virus is airborne, we can no longer be in proximity to one another – no hugs, no kisses, no handshakes, no “high fives”. New terms, like “social distancing” and “self-quarantining” are now common vernacular that health experts insist we must familiarize ourselves with, less we become infected and ill, or silent carriers without symptoms who can infect others with compromised health conditions. In the midst of this difficult and unparalleled period, how can we cope as a social?
Experts tells us that even as we practice social distancing by remaining in our homes, we still need to go outside, albeit with certain precautions. This may be the perfect moment when nature shines brightly, as an antidote to distract our anxious minds from the dire problem of this situation.This is the time to fashion a personal and tailor-made form of “eco-therapy” by taking a walk, running, walking the dog, or simply sitting on one’s balcony or front porch. There is something about the intake of fresh air, the sites of spring bursting forth in the glimpse of buds on bushes and trees and observing the return of the birds, that can help us to calm our thoughts. And there are many ways to do a personal eco-therapy, that are very simple.
Try walking: A neighbor and I have been walking daily at noon. She’s not so much a hugger like me and it has saddened me that we must keep the prescribed six feet distance between us. But we have managed to do this, where one walks on the sidewalk and the other walks in the street, near the curb. As we walk, we laugh and solve the problems of the world. We have watched grackles, robins and pheasants return to the neighborhood, apparently oblivious to the new human protocols of “lockdown”. The daffodils are pushing up through the soil, and we determine together what flowers we are going to plant for the block, just as we’ve done every year for the past three years.
Buy flowers or a potted plant: The next time you make your weekly grocery run, pick up a bouquet of flowers or purchase a small plant. This will remind you that nature is still going strong.
Start your garden seeds indoors: There are numerous online sites that can help gardeners with the techniques. This can be a great panacea against the long hours we must spend at home.
Repot your plants: This is a wonderful time to see if your plants are a bit crowded in their pots. If you’re not an expert, consult Mother Earth Magazine online or check out YouTube videos. It’s also nice to grow new plants from slips, such as Pothos and others. These are just a few ideas that may help to turn our minds to more positive thoughts. At some point, we will be able to return to our plans. But in the meantime, nature can prove a powerful ally to help us overcome our apprehensions.

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As health concerns surrounding COVID-19/Coronavirus begins to reach new heights, several hospitals and local organizations are in need of additional personal protective equipment. In an effort to help address the shortage of equipment and materials, the StAND project has donated extra supplies to local donation sites. Requests for unopened and unused equipment includes some of the following items:

  • Hand sanitizer
  • Wipes
  • Disposable face masks
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Disposable gowns
  • Disposable gloves
  • Disposable surgical caps
  • Disposable foot covers

For more information about the shortage or what supplies can be donated to help with the shortage, please visit some of the following articles:

For more information on the Coronavirus, please visit the following resources:

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Dr. Pearson was featured in a documentary created by Hannah Kirshman, a graduate of Grand Valley State University. The exploratory documentary looks at urban green space and their benefits for human health and the environment. Dr. Pearson spoke in the documentary about how is impacted by “the built social environments in neighborhoods as well as the physical environment”. As the documentary explored different green space, Dr. Pearson offered information on the benefits, uses and diversity of green spaces as well as some information on how the StAND study might be able to offer more insights on the relationship between human health and green spaces. You can check out the documentary here.


On Saturday, November 2, 2019, Paula Perry, a field team member of StAND 2019, attended the Clinton Global Initiate (CGI) University Alumni Celebration at Cornell Tech on Roosevelt Island in New York City. The event brought together a group of young leaders, business and nonprofit executives and philanthropists to reflect on and celebrate the social impact and innovation. Paula Perry attended and presented "A study to examine how ecological park restoration benefits health". Perry had the chance to meet President Bill Clinton and gave him the accompanying poster to her presentation.

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On Friday, November 1, 2019, Reverend Dr. Ventra Asana presented on "The ecotheology as the site of healing for ravaged urban landscapes". The talk was presented by the Space, Health, and Community (SHAC) Lab and Dr. Asana has been working with Dr. Amber Pearson on Study of Active Neighborhoods Detroit (StAND). Dr. Asana earned her Doctor of Ministry at the Ecumenical Theological Seminary in Detroit and she has extensive experience in community outreach and ministry.


Dr. Amber Pearson and undergraduate student Claudia Allou travelled to Ithaca, New York to visit the Cornell Ornithology Lab. At the lab, they met with faculty, staff and researchers from the Ornithology Lab as well as Dr. Rachel Buxton and her colleagues from Carleton University to discuss and collaborate on research.

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