The old adage of “take two aspirin and call me in the morning” may soon be replaced with a “nature prescription.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic highlighting the health benefits of spending more time outdoors, a growing faction of the U.S. medical community is prescribing time outside the same way they would traditional medication.
The idea of writing out park or nature prescriptions has taken hold, particularly among pediatricians.
Maya Moody, the president-elect of the Missouri chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), became one of about a dozen pediatricians across the state who have started offering nature prescriptions.
“When I give a prescription, it’s specific, just like an antibiotic. They use it for this many days, and I say go to this park,” she explained. Buy-in has differed with different age groups, Moody noted, with younger children and their parents being more open to the approach but teenagers expressing skepticism.
Nature prescriptions are still new, so there is little data on their effectiveness, but one 2018 analysis by researchers from Britain’s University of East Anglia did find they “may have substantial benefits”.
There has been much more research done on the general benefits of being outdoors. In more than 500 scientific studies in recent years, researchers have linked time spent in nature with decreased anxiety, reduced risk of obesity, and even reduced overall mortality.
And it may come as no surprise, but one company has developed an online platform, Park Rx America, that helps medical professionals write nature prescriptions. Using its database of thousands of parks and public lands, prescribers can filter by activity, distance from a patient’s home, and amenities such as playgrounds.
Currently, there are more than 100 park prescription programs nationwide, and I hope to see the number grow. Such programs seem like a low-cost way of providing a useful health benefit to many people.
This made me think of another potential area for low-cost, but potentially effective health care solutions.
For people who are having trouble sleeping, doctors and sleep centers can prescribe the following:
- read Borden’s Blather every day for 30 days
Such a treatment would likely put the patients into a deep sleep. If it doesn’t work, then pull out the heavy equipment:
- watch 30 minutes of Borden’s recorded accounting lectures each day
If this doesn’t work, either the patient is likely a lost cause or they have a future as an accountant.
*4,000 steps require about 30 minutes of walking
**image from NBC News