Nature is becoming a form of medicine in west Michigan, United States.
Under a new initiative, Park Rx America, doctors are prescribing visits to local parks, along with more traditional medicine, to boost patient health.
The pilot programme is a partnership between Park Rx America, the Ottawa County Parks, the city of Holland, Holland Charter Township, Park Township, Laketown Township and the Outdoor Discovery Center.
The initiative is led by Dr Beth Peter of Lakewood Family Medicine in Holland, Michigan.
“The PHO (Holland Physician Hospital Organization) is always searching for resources we can give our physicians to help them motivate their patients to make important habit changes so they are healthier, feel better and are less stressed,” she said in a news release.
“Park Rx America is one we’re really excited about.”
Jessica VanGinhoven, Ottawa County Parks communications specialist, said about 80 parks in and around Holland have been registered under Park Rx America.
She said healthcare practitioners have a database they use to find parks that fit the patient’s needs.
“They can filter them by walkways and bathrooms,” she said. “We hope it expands.”
Anyone can visit Park Rx America’s website to view the parks. According to its website, the non-profit organisation incorporated more than 8,000 parks in 34 states for healthcare practitioners.
Physicians can register through the website to prescribe parks to their patients.
“As a city and region, we know parks are a critical element to contributing to the high quality of life our area offers, this is a neat programme where those same parks can also contribute to our residents’ health,” Holland City manager Keith Van Beek said in an email.
Discussion of nature as a healer continues to be a major topic with a 2019 study conducted by University of Michigan researchers MaryCarol Hunter, Brenda Gillespie and Sophie Chen Yu-Pu.
The study, released in April, suggested that at least 20 minutes of physical activity outside or interacting with nature can reduce health issues such as stress, heart disease, blood pressure and weight.
The study also suggested that an additional 10 minutes – a total of 30 minutes – results in an even more dramatic decrease in stress.
Hunter said in April 2019 that the study was developed for healthcare practitioners to utilise when giving patients a “nature-pill prescription”.
“For a while, people have been trying to put a number on how much nature is needed,” she said. “Healthcare professionals have different answers.”
She suggested people even start with five minutes outside and “see where it takes you”. – Detroit Free Press/Tribune News Service