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Harvard unveils $25m centre dedicated to advancing science of mindfulness
By Megan Whitby 03 May 2023
Mindfulness, defined as present-centred attention and awareness, emerged from Buddhist philosophy and has been cultivated for millennia through meditation practices Credit: Shutterstock/metamorworks
The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (HSPH) has unveiled the Thich Nhat Hanh Center for Mindfulness in Public Health, following a US$25m (€22.7m, £19.9m) gift from an anonymous donor.

The Center’s mission is to empower people everywhere to live with purpose, equanimity and joy through the practice of mindfulness; pursue evidence-based approaches to improve health and wellbeing through mindfulness; and educate and train the public in mindfulness.

Two primary areas of emphasis will be nutrition and the environment.

“We’re thrilled to host this groundbreaking center at the HSPH,” said Michelle A Williams, dean of the faculty.

“In public health, we work at population scale – we aim to reach and uplift entire communities. The Thich Nhat Hanh Center for Mindfulness in Public Health will operate in that spirit.”

Taking inspiration
The new facility is named after Thich Nhat Hanh (1926-2022), a Zen master, global spiritual leader, scholar and peace activist revered globally as ‘the father of mindfulness’ for his teachings on mindfulness, global ethics and peace.

Throughout the Vietnam War, Nhat Hanh travelled tirelessly to spread the principles of nonviolence, compassion and solidarity, working alongside activists such as Dr Martin Luther King, Jr., who nominated the Vietnamese Buddhist monk for a Nobel Prize at the height of the war.

In his home country, meanwhile, Nhat Hanh put his principles into action by founding an all-volunteer relief organisation, known as the School of Youth and Social Service.

Planned initiatives and research
As of early 2023, there were nearly 25,000 studies about mindfulness in peer-reviewed publications encompassing a variety of disciplines. However, the field is quite young and the Thich Nhat Hanh Center researchers see a need for additional scientific tools to assess the impact of mindfulness interventions on health and wellness.

The center has planned a number of research initiatives, including:
• “Minding Our Future,” which focuses on developing interdisciplinary, evidence-based programmes to help people live healthier lives as they age. One strand of research will look at how mindfulness practices interwoven into daily living, including mindful design of dining spaces, menus, and shared experiences around food, can contribute to healthy longevity.
• “Eat, Move & Live Mindfully,” a curriculum that integrates lessons on nutrition, physical activity and mindfulness to help youth establish healthy and mindful habits that are good for themselves and the health of the planet.
• A mindful eating research and education programme at Harvard and beyond.

“I’m so pleased that the new center will enable the scientific study of mindfulness in the context of public health,” said Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition and the Center’s director.

“We’re looking forward to establishing the center as a hub of rigorous inquiry and to collaborating with colleagues around the world to advance the science of mindfulness.”

Based in the Department of Nutrition, the Center will take a collaborative approach to advance its mission by working with colleagues across the school, the university and global mindfulness communities.


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NEWS
Harvard unveils $25m centre dedicated to advancing science of mindfulness
POSTED 03 May 2023 . BY Megan Whitby
Mindfulness, defined as present-centred attention and awareness, emerged from Buddhist philosophy and has been cultivated for millennia through meditation practices Credit: Shutterstock/metamorworks
Credit: GWS
We’re thrilled to host this groundbreaking center at the HSPH
– Michelle A Williams
The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (HSPH) has unveiled the Thich Nhat Hanh Center for Mindfulness in Public Health, following a US$25m (€22.7m, £19.9m) gift from an anonymous donor.

The Center’s mission is to empower people everywhere to live with purpose, equanimity and joy through the practice of mindfulness; pursue evidence-based approaches to improve health and wellbeing through mindfulness; and educate and train the public in mindfulness.

Two primary areas of emphasis will be nutrition and the environment.

“We’re thrilled to host this groundbreaking center at the HSPH,” said Michelle A Williams, dean of the faculty.

“In public health, we work at population scale – we aim to reach and uplift entire communities. The Thich Nhat Hanh Center for Mindfulness in Public Health will operate in that spirit.”

Taking inspiration
The new facility is named after Thich Nhat Hanh (1926-2022), a Zen master, global spiritual leader, scholar and peace activist revered globally as ‘the father of mindfulness’ for his teachings on mindfulness, global ethics and peace.

Throughout the Vietnam War, Nhat Hanh travelled tirelessly to spread the principles of nonviolence, compassion and solidarity, working alongside activists such as Dr Martin Luther King, Jr., who nominated the Vietnamese Buddhist monk for a Nobel Prize at the height of the war.

In his home country, meanwhile, Nhat Hanh put his principles into action by founding an all-volunteer relief organisation, known as the School of Youth and Social Service.

Planned initiatives and research
As of early 2023, there were nearly 25,000 studies about mindfulness in peer-reviewed publications encompassing a variety of disciplines. However, the field is quite young and the Thich Nhat Hanh Center researchers see a need for additional scientific tools to assess the impact of mindfulness interventions on health and wellness.

The center has planned a number of research initiatives, including:
• “Minding Our Future,” which focuses on developing interdisciplinary, evidence-based programmes to help people live healthier lives as they age. One strand of research will look at how mindfulness practices interwoven into daily living, including mindful design of dining spaces, menus, and shared experiences around food, can contribute to healthy longevity.
• “Eat, Move & Live Mindfully,” a curriculum that integrates lessons on nutrition, physical activity and mindfulness to help youth establish healthy and mindful habits that are good for themselves and the health of the planet.
• A mindful eating research and education programme at Harvard and beyond.

“I’m so pleased that the new center will enable the scientific study of mindfulness in the context of public health,” said Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition and the Center’s director.

“We’re looking forward to establishing the center as a hub of rigorous inquiry and to collaborating with colleagues around the world to advance the science of mindfulness.”

Based in the Department of Nutrition, the Center will take a collaborative approach to advance its mission by working with colleagues across the school, the university and global mindfulness communities.
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