Dozens of Northwest MDs Prescribing Nature

TOM BANSE / NW NEWS NETWORK reported that dozens of Pacific Northwest doctors are teaming up with a national nonprofit to write a different kind of prescription. Their “park prescriptions” direct patients with obesity, anxiety, depression or certain chronic conditions to spend more time outside.

Physicians already routinely counsel patients to exercise more, as you may know from personal experience. This takes it one step further — by writing actual prescriptions specifying how long and how often to recreate in named parks. Dr. Atoosa Kourosh, a pediatrician and allergist in Seattle said a written prescription makes a stronger impression.

“If you do that, then people take it more seriously than you’ve told them to get outside and be active,” Kourosh said in an interview.

Kourosh is one of 63 health care providers in Washington state and 12 in Oregon who have signed up with the nonprofit Park Rx America to “prescribe” parks. Washington State Parks recently joined the national group, which provides clinicians a template to prescribe nearby green spaces with address and amenity details.

Nature immersion could be suitable to treat a range of conditions in children and adults, say Kourosh and the state parks department. Obesity gets a frequent mention, as well as hypertension, diabetes and attention deficit disorder.

“Children with both attention problems, behavioral problems, and psychological problems seem to very much benefit from these experiences,” Kourosh said.

She said patient reactions to getting a park prescription tend toward “delight,” although she also has seen some skepticism.

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