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B.C. health care providers are writing prescriptions for time in nature

Proven benefits of time in nature include: improved mood and reduced stress; reduced risk of developing heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes; increased memory, creativity, and work satisfaction.
By: Madeleine Hall
December 09, 2020
Photo: PaRx

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to adversely affect Canadians’ mental and physical health, a team of B.C. health care providers have partnered with BC Parks Foundation to launch PaRx, a joint initiative to help patients reap the health benefits of nature.

Parks Prescriptions has existed as an international grassroots movement for over a decade, but PaRx is Canada’s first national, evidence-based nature prescription program. Any licensed health care provider, from nurses to physicians to physiotherapists, can participate as a prescriber.

PaRx is directed by Dr. Melissa Lem, a Vancouver family physician who also works in rural and northern communities within Canada. “Health-care providers are always looking for simple, practical interventions they can make to improve their patients’ lives,” writes the PaRx website. “The beauty of PaRx is that almost anyone can increase the time they spend in nature, no matter what their physical abilities are or where they live.”

PaRx advises health care providers to see time in nature as the fourth pillar of health: “Whenever you do lifestyle counselling around diet, exercise and sleep habits, remember to add nature time as a recommendation.” Proven benefits of time in nature include: improved mood and reduced stress; reduced risk of developing heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes; increased memory, creativity, and work satisfaction.

Of course, anyone can build time outside into their own routine without a prescription, but studies suggest that written prescriptions are more effective than oral advice in motivating patients’ to make a change. The provider works collaboratively with the patient to build time outside into their schedule, involving activities they like in spaces that are convenient for them to access. The provider can then follow up with the patient to assess and adjust the program as needed.

Learn more about PaRx and find a participating health care professional near you here.

Sources: PaRx, Instagram

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