Since the launch of PaRX in November 2020, participating clinicians have prescribed countless hours in the sun.
“Our standard recommendation is to spend at least two hours in nature each week and at least 20 minutes at a time to maximize health benefits,” PaRx Director and Family Physician Dr. Melissa Lim told CNN. “There’s almost no case where nature isn’t good, from diabetes to high blood pressure. Childhood ADHD, anxiety, and depression.”
The fourth pillar of health
Lim grew up in a predominantly white suburb of Toronto where she was usually the only person of color in her school and neighborhood, she said. Often faced with racism and a feeling that she “doesn’t belong,” Lem sought solace in nature, whether it was her parents’ garden or a nearby park.
After visiting a national park for the first time at the age of eight, Lim realized she wanted to work in a profession that would allow her to bring nature into people’s lives.
Decades later, after graduating from medical school and becoming a family physician, she found a way to combine her passion for nature with health care. In 2019, Lem reached out to the BC Parks Foundation and shared her research showing how spending time in nature can improve physical and mental health.
Within a year, I worked with the foundation to launch the PaRx program.
“There are so many different ways that nature is good for our bodies and brains, so it’s also a really effective health intervention,” Lim said. “We like to say it should be the fourth pillar of health, along with a healthy diet, sleep and exercise.”
Lim wasn’t alone in her belief that nature could heal.
Several studies have shown that exposure to nature can combat depression, reduce stress levels, improve blood pressure, and enhance creative and cognitive abilities.
“It has been a pleasure to be a part of this important work and help reduce barriers to access nature,” Lim said. “I think we’re on our way to socializing the idea that nature is the fourth pillar of health and making nature describe a mainstream idea.”
“Within six weeks, my depression improved a lot”
Marjorie Scheuermann says she doesn’t need medical studies to prove nature’s ability to heal — she’s tested it firsthand.
In 2020, the Vancouver resident visited a doctor to receive help with her depression.
“I just said, ‘I can’t get rid of this depression. I just feel like I can’t get up from playing spider solitaire,’” Schurmann told CNN. He says, ‘I have a prescription just for you. “Oh, Judy, another pill.”
But instead of a pharmaceutical solution, Scheuermann’s doctor prescribed it with a normal time — at least two hours a week, at least 20 minutes each time.
“Within six weeks, my depression had improved a lot…” Schurmann said. “We know there’s science about the effect of being in nature, being with trees, going for a tree hug, and you’ll feel better. So I wholeheartedly supported that, and I’m an example of how it works.”
“If you love something, you want to protect it,” Lim said. “They tend to recycle more, they tend to save more electricity and participate in more climate action.” “So we like to think in our program that every time someone writes a prescription for nature, we’re doing our little bit for the planet.”
As of February 2022, more than 4,000 licensed healthcare professionals, including nurses, physicians, and psychologists, have signed up for the PaRx Program. However, due to privacy laws, it is unclear how many Nature’s Recipes they wrote.
Will see the partnership between BC Parks Foundation and Parks Canada Agency Doctors prescribe 100 free passes to the park in its first year. Parks Canada spokeswoman Megan Hope told CNN that permits will be prioritized for Canadians who live near national sites and those clinicians believe most need.
“This partnership initiative will support the health and wellness of Canadians, increase their connection to nature and improve access to natural heritage sites,” Hope said, adding that the number of permits submitted “will be reassessed in the following years.”
PaRX already exists It changed the way many Canadian medical professionals and their patients think about nature, Lim said. But the program still has a long way to go.
“When medical schools start teaching nature, describing and recommending nature is as important as following a healthy diet and lifestyle, I will know we are getting there,” she said.
CNN’s Evilio Contreras and Jeff Cope contributed to this report.