For the past 16 years, I've been practicing primary care pediatrics in a community health center right here in our nation's capital. Every day, I have the privilege of listening to my patients and hearing their stories, and looking for opportunities to help them improve their lives. There is nothing more satisfying to me than to develop relationships with my patients, and to connect them with health-promoting resources.
Park Rx America: One doctor's perspective on prescribing parks
Many people ask me why I have taken such a strong liking to prescribing parks. One reason is the preponderance of scientific studies showing the connections between improved health and time spent outdoors in natural settings. Over 400 correlational studies have thus far showed improved health outcomes directly related to time spent in nature.
It is rare for doctors to find such an accessible and inexpensive intervention that positively impacts a wide breadth of chronic disease, ranging from diabetes to high blood pressure to obesity to depression and many other serious mental illnesses, found in all ages. It is also quite satisfying and reassuring to find an intervention with few side effects. It is therefore, with strong conviction, that I have taken to prescribing parks to prevent and treat chronic disease, promote well-being, and to rekindle a connection between people and the outdoor world.
As of April this year I decided to take a transformational leap and create ParkRxAmerica.org (formally DC Park Rx), a non-profit organization whose mission is to decrease the burden of chronic disease, increase health and happiness, and foster environmental stewardship, by virtue of prescribing nature during the routine delivery of healthcare. Park Rx America (PRA) works closely with managers of publicly-accessible land and water, as well as directly with healthcare providers and their respective organizations, to "make it easy" to prescribe parks and other protected areas to their patients real-time in the clinical practice setting. PRA has collaborated closely with park agencies, healthcare provider organizations, academic institutions, departments of health, and with many of YOU to create a scalable park prescribing model, to bring to urban centers where we find concentrations of chronically ill and underutilized green space.
2017 has been a fast-moving year for Park Rx America. We have been expanding nationally, and now have more than fifty clinicians routinely prescribing parks in Washington, DC, Maryland, Virginia, Alaska, and Washington State. We expanded our park prescribing capacity from 380 parks to nearly 2400 parks in ParkRxAmerica.org. Our park prescribing doctors have collectively made over 3000 park prescriptions since we went live in 2013, and we anticipate having park prescribing docs in at least a half dozen other states by the end of next year!
My PRA travels have taken me to Ocean City to speak to the Maryland Rec and Park Association, to Cornell University and William and Mary College to speak and meet with students and faculty, to Detroit to speak at the annual State Recreation and Park Association meeting, to Mayo Clinic in Florida to share our park prescribing model, and even to Salzburg, Austria to speak at the Salzburg Global Seminar, where 50 representatives from over 35 countries convened to discuss the role of Nature in urban children's lives.
At the American Public Health Association's annual meeting I convened an oral scientific session with Dr. David Sabgir (Walk with a Doc), Jason Urroz (Kids in Parks), and Dr. Tamberly Conway (US Forest Service). Dr. Conway and I also published an article on tree canopies in AJPH December issue. Dr. William Bird (Intelligent Health in UK) and I co-wrote a chapter on Park Rx in an Oxford University Press volume regarding Nature and Public Health, to be released early in 2018. I have given numerous seminars/workshops/webinars and interviews, including PRI's Living on Earth and NBC's Lester Holt Nightly News.
As a physician, I will continue to prescribe parks as part of my routine practice. As an advocate, I will promise to share our park prescription model with as many individuals and organizations committed to incorporating our low-cost and accessible intervention to improve health outcomes and overall wellness.
But I cannot do this without your support. Please take a moment to make a tax-deductible donation before this year comes to a close. We at PRA look forward to even more success in the year to come, and we can do this faster with your financial help.