Photo by Diana Bowen/National Park Service
While at the SHIFT Conference in Jackson Hole, WY, last year, Nature Sacred’s Executive Director, Erin Robertson, met with Park Rx America founder and medical director, Dr. Robert Zarr. It was the beginning of a conversation that will soon see all of the Sacred Places in the Nature Sacred network included in Park Rx’s “Prescription Platform”, which includes parks in 35 states.
In a November 2018 article published in Time magazine about the Park Rx program, Dr. Zarr, who is also a practicing pediatrician in Washington, DC, where he cares for low-income and immigrant populations, was described as being part of a growing movement to bring the outdoors into medicine.
“As a primary care pediatrician and founder of Park Rx America, I witness firsthand the epidemic of mental health illness in children, adolescents, and young adults. The science is very clear that spending time outdoors provides the perfect opportunity for Nature to guide the healing process,” said Dr. Zarr. “Nature Sacred spaces are well suited to providing a safe space for my patients to slow down, sit on a bench, and even journal if they so wish.”
Park Rx America is a nonprofit that is working to decrease the burden of chronic disease, improve health and increase happiness while also improving environmental stewardship through the prescription of nature as part of the care provided by doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals.
“Part of our mission has always been to improve individuals’ health by offering access to meaningful green spaces,” Robertson said. “It is a natural collaboration to join forces with Dr. Zarr and Park Rx America in this way – helping to urge more people into nature so that they may both enjoy and benefit from it.”
As the program’s name suggests, healthcare providers who participate in the Park Rx America program prescribe time in nature – in specific “doses” – alongside pharmaceutical prescriptions. It’s this specificity, Dr. Zarr has said, and framing of health as medicine for patients, that motivates his patients to actually get outdoors.
“We know from having spent decades working with communities to create Sacred Places that simply creating the spaces doesn’t guarantee that they will be used,” said Robertson. “We need programming and innovative ideas like Park Rx to encourage people to enter them; to spend time in them – to make nature part of their everyday life.”
Here’s Dr. Zarr talking about Park Rx in video produced by the National Park Service, a partner in Park Rx.