'Time in nature' joins list of remedies N.B. doctors can prescribe

·2 min read
New Brunswick doctors now have access to a program that helps them give detailed prescriptions to their patients for spending time in the outdoors. (Craig Norris/VideoBand - image credit)
New Brunswick doctors now have access to a program that helps them give detailed prescriptions to their patients for spending time in the outdoors. (Craig Norris/VideoBand - image credit)

Going outside for a breath of fresh air might seem an obvious cure for cabin fever.

But as of Friday, Earth Day, doctors in New Brunswick and across the Maritimes can now prescribe spending time in nature to patients who might need it for either their physical or mental health.

It's part of a national program known as PaRx, aimed at encouraging health-care professionals to include outdoor activities as one of the remedies they prescribe to their patients.

And if a patient qualifies, their prescriber could make the prescription include a free one-month pass to a Parks Canada site.

"One of our main goals is to make [time spent in] nature the fourth pillar of health," said Jacqueline Mincer, a Dalhousie University medical student at the Saint John campus and launch co-ordinator for PaRx in New Brunswick.

Submitted by Jacqueline Mincer
Submitted by Jacqueline Mincer

"So when we're talking about any sort of lifestyle management with patients, you know, encouraging a healthy diet, exercise regime and sleep habits, we're also trying to incorporate time outside and time in nature as a recommendation," she said on Information Morning Fredericton.

"I think as a society, we've, we've really disconnected with nature and, you know, moved more towards our screens and indoors, and there's a lot more that we can be doing in terms of spending time outside."

Mincer said people generally view going outside as being positive, but don't seriously consider the benefits it could have on their health.

She said a prescription for time spent in nature could be beneficial for many, including a child suffering from attention deficit and hyperactive disorder, or patients nearing the end of their lives and suffering depression and anxiety over it.

Plus, the act of having this written down as a prescription by their doctor could increase the chance the patient follows through with the advice, rather than if it were just recommended verbally.

The New Brunswick Medical Society recognizes the health benefits of time spent outside and endorses the PaRx program, said president Dr. Mark MacMillan.

MacMillan said doctors already had the ability to recommend their patients spend time outdoors, whether for their physical or mental health.

CBC/Zoom
CBC/Zoom

However, with the launch of the program in New Brunswick, they'll now have access to material that lets them give patients structured prescriptions.

"There is a prescription template, there is a way to log the hours and keep track of things," MacMillan said.

"So it's just a more structured sort of way of encouraging the patient to really be more involved in their own physical and mental well-being and using nature as one of those tools to do that.

"Research has shown that a more structured, formalized approach to these recommendations, rather than just a verbal encouragement, do prove to be more beneficial and more likely that a patient will become involved with their own physical well-being and mental health."

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting