Nature prescription could be just what the doctor ordered
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/10/2021 (601 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Take a hike in the forest and call me in the morning.
Instead of prescribing just a pill or ointment, doctors could soon tell patients to head to the great outdoors.
PaRx, a national nature prescription program, has launched in Manitoba to help address mental and physical health problems and to encourage people to get outside to exercise.
Anna Cooper Reed, a social worker and doctoral student who is helping bring the program to this province, said she grew up being able to go to the family cottage in a provincial park in Manitoba so she knows first-hand the benefits of spending time outdoors.
“It doesn’t have to be a hike through a forest,” said Reed.
“Most people can’t get to Assiniboine Park each day, but they could go to the river walk or to a nearby park. It might just be sitting on a bench by the river or in a small park downtown.
“I think PaRx is such a cool idea.”
PaRx was launched by the BC Parks Foundation in British Columbia last November and it has since spread to Ontario and Saskatchewan.
Any licensed health-care professional is able to prescribe PaRx and so far almost 1,000 prescribers have registered for the program. Once registered, they get a provider code and information about how to prescribe and log prescriptions.
Reed said in the program patients would be prescribed two hours of nature time a week, to be taken in 20-minute blocks.
She said PaRx is especially timely given the restrictions during the pandemic which have kept many people housebound for long periods of time to restrict the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
“Many people have had to work from home. It has been very isolating, so time outside is very important.”
Dr. Joanna Lynch, president of the 1,553-member Manitoba College of Family Physicians, said she believes PaRx could help all her patients.
“But a person needs to be willing to talk about it,” said Lynch. “Being exposed to nature does have proven benefits.
“Family physicians believe that one of the most effective ways to prevent disease and promote health is by encouraging healthier lifestyles. Being able to formally prescribe nature in Manitoba, using the PaRx program, will help us improve the well-being of our patients and communities.
“A city park is better than a city street, but a city street to walk on is better than your basement with a treadmill.”
Cheryl Cusack, executive director of the Association of Regulated Nurses of Manitoba, and a registered nurse herself, said being outside is beneficial for a person’s health in many ways, including reducing stress.
“This is not only good for the people nurses work with, but with the stress nurses and health-care workers are under, it is also a strategy they can use themselves,” said Cusack.
“We view the person as a whole, so there are many opportunities for us to promote physical and mental well-being using a connection to nature.”
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.