Working Group to Develop Best Practices for Parks Rx Programs

Park prescription programs allow health care providers to prescribe time outside to patients as a means to improve their physical and mental well-being. The practice of such prescriptions is increasing—good news for the health of the public, which is burdened by rising rates of obesity, diabetes and mental anxiety, all of which are proven to be improved by outdoor recreation.

One of the challenges for the park prescription movement is the lack of a formal framework. Programs can be run by an outdoors program such as the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Outdoors Rx Program, a doctor, such as Walk With A Doc, or a spectrum of providers in between.

Such variety has contributed to a lack of consistency in the space, undermining the movement’s momentum.

To address this issue, a working group of Parks Rx specialists has convened to help ensure park prescription programs are working efficiently and effectively within a framework of best practices.

The 2019 SHIFT Festival, which will take place October 16-18, 2019 in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, will focus on the business case for nature as medicine.

The event will explore how natural allies in outdoor recreation, conservation, land management and public health can advance the economic and practical applications of nature as a social determinant of health.

The Parks Rx working group, which is developing the Parks Rx workshop at SHIFT, is comprised of the following subject-matter experts:

  • Angel Santos Burres, Director, Appalachian Mountain Club’s Outdoors Rx Program
  • Richard Christiana, PhD, Assistant Professor, Health Promotion and Behavior, Appalachian State University
  • Courtney Schultz, Research Associate, Parks Rx America; Executive Director, Health & Technology Partners, LLC (2019 Emerging Leader)
  • David Sabgir, MD, Founder and CEO, Walk With A Doc
  • Jason Urroz, Director, Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation’s Kids in Parks Program (2018 SHIFT Award Winner—Non-Profit Leadership)

As part of their efforts, the group has developed this survey to identify gaps, needs and opportunities common to park prescription programs. An invitation to Park Rx programs around the country to complete it has been sent out.

Responses will be used to develop the Parks Rx workshop at SHIFT in October.

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