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PaRx: Canada’s First Nature Prescription Initiative

Dr. Melissa Lem is Director of Park Prescriptions for the BC Parks Foundation and a Clinical Assistant Professor in the University of British Columbia’s Department of Family Practice. In this column, Dr. Lem describes the success of PaRx, Canada’s first national, evidence-based nature prescription program.

Nature prescriptions were named one of the top eight global wellness trends in 2019. And it’s no surprise—research shows that kids and adults who spend more time in nature are happier and healthier. Starting with a BC launch in November 2020 to significant media attention (The Globe & Mail, CTVCBC), PaRx is breaking ground as Canada’s first national, evidence-based nature prescription program.

PaRx officially launched in Ontario this February, and the response has been tremendous. We now have close to 800 prescribers registered across Canada, from nurses to physicians to psychologists and physiotherapists. And now that summer has arrived, there’s no better time for Ontario healthcare professionals to encourage patients to get outside safely with their households to enjoy the health-boosting benefits of nature. Featuring practical resources like quick tips and patient handouts, our goal is to make prescribing time in nature simple, fun and effective.

When we head outside into nature, we feel calmer, more focused and refreshed. Not only is that feeling backed up by science, but the benefits extend far beyond mental health. A 2018 systematic review pointed to an impressive number of perks of increased nature contact, from improved blood pressure and cancer-related outcomes, to a reduced risk of asthma, preterm birth, coronary heart disease, Type II Diabetes and stroke. In children, research indicates that more time spent in nature can result in better attention capacity, behaviour, eyesight, motor skills development, school performance, sleep quality and self-esteem. Are you convinced you and your family should be spending more time outdoors yet?

What’s more, research also tells us that people who are more connected to nature behave in more environmentally friendly ways, from saving energy and recycling to advocating for action on climate change. So every time someone writes a nature prescription, they’re also doing their part for the planet.

That’s where you come in. As trusted, valued healthcare professionals who work closely with patients to support their wellbeing when it’s most needed, you can play a vital role in fostering the nature-health connection and creating a healthier future for us all.

Check out www.parkprescriptions.ca  to register to become a prescriber, and spread the word about how good nature is for us to your community. We hope to see you there.

About Dr. Melissa Lem

Dr. Melissa Lem is Director of Park Prescriptions for the BC Parks Foundation and a Clinical Assistant Professor in the University of British Columbia’s Department of Family Practice.

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