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Prescribing Parks for Patient Health

Atlanta's Piedmont Park.

Should doctors give prescribe park use? That’s exactly what San Francisco physician Daphne Miller is doing, and she writes for the Washington Post about getting patients healthier through these public amenities. She begins:

“I have a StairMaster right in my own basement, but honestly it’s been there for years gathering dust and making me feel guilty,” said Miriam, one of my patients. “It wasn’t until I started walking the three-mile trail in the park near my house that I got serious about exercising. I do it now rain or shine. I love the fresh air. The best part is that I get a great workout and don’t even mind sweating.”

At this point, I have heard enough variations on Miriam’s story that I have started to make formal “park prescriptions.” The prescribing instructions are considerably more detailed than ones you might get with a medication; they include the location of a local green space, the name of a specific trail and, when possible, exact mileage.

It turns out I am not alone. I’ve begun hearing about doctors around the country who are medicating their patients with

The Wellnes Walkway on Little Rock's Medical Mile.

nature in order to prevent (or treat) health problems ranging from heart disease to attention deficit disorder.

One suggestion offered in the article is that of tool kits educating doctors about parks, potentially paid for by local health care providers or insurance companies. This seems like novel idea. It seems we can’t get away from pharmaceutical companies advertising different drugs on television, not to mention the number of sales representatives they employ to persuade doctors of their products. Parks need marketing, too, and connecting with the health community is a great place to do so.

3 Responses

  1. Thanks for this post Ben – we at the Piedmont Park Conservancy couldn’t agree more.

  2. Great post. The article was a fun, yet informative read. I think that a lot more doctors should prescribe parks as the solution to health problems. Just think of the difference it could make (and the cost savings to consumers!)

  3. Yvette – Thanks. As someone who has ran in Piedmont Park myself, its a great health-promoting park.

    Thanks, Coleen. Maybe we’re seeing the beginning of a trend.

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