U of S students help launch nature prescription program

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Time spent in nature is free, does not have a long list of negative side effects, and can now be prescribed by doctors in Saskatchewan.

As of Monday, health professionals across the province can add nature time to their prescription list, with the launch of the PaRx nature prescription program in Saskatchewan.

“What I like about the idea of ​​a natural prescription is that as long as a patient can have meaningful experience with nature, that’s enough to be able to get these health benefits,” said Brooklyn Rawlyk. , a medical student at the University. from Saskatchewan.

“What I really liked was… being able to break down those barriers of, you know what, you don’t have to be physically active, you don’t have to necessarily go in. an organized park. “

Rawlyk and his medical student colleague Sehjal Bhargava helped launch the program in the province.

The two friends first met in high school and share a passion for running, wellness and the great outdoors.

PaRx is the first national nature prescribing program in Canada and was introduced in British Columbia in 2020 by the BC Parks Foundation.

This spring, the Saskatchewan Medical Association (SMA) passed a resolution to support the program that helps licensed healthcare professionals prescribe nature-like doses to their patients, according to the BC Parks Foundation.

Rawlyk first heard about the program on social media, she said.

“We have been successful in engaging key stakeholders and really bringing that to our province,” said Rawlyk.

“It was taken surprisingly well. I think the best part of it was finding out how many doctors are already informally prescribing nature.

Any health care professional registered in the province can register to prescribe time in the wild, including pharmacists, nurses, physiotherapists or occupational health workers, according to Rawlyk.

“It kind of adds another tool to our toolkit as prescribers,” Bhargava said.

A minimum of two hours per week in nature

Conversations between healthcare professionals and patients are important in determining how much time in nature is meaningful and fits easily into someone’s day, according to Bhargava.

“The more time you spend in nature, the greater the benefits,” she said.

“20 minutes at a time for about two hours a week is what gives you that optimal health benefit, you know, pain reduction, mental health benefits, blood pressure reduction, reducing cardiovascular risk factors and more. “

Besides their professional connection to nature’s health benefits, the two medical students themselves enjoy spending time outdoors as runners.

“We spend a lot of time outdoors and I always found myself more rested and felt better mentally and physically after being outside,” said Bhargava.

“Even during the pandemic, more recently, we are finding people on the outside who are finding this as a way to reconnect and feel better about themselves.”

800 prescribers across the country have registered for the program

Another passion that drives the two students is their engagement with the Saskatchewan chapter of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment.

Preserving the environment helps keep people healthy, Bhargava said.

Nature’s prescription “encourages people to connect with their surroundings,” she said.

“The negative impacts of climate change are going to have a negative impact on our health and already are.”

Besides exercise, nutrition and sleep, the medical student considers nature to be the fourth pillar of health.

“I think it is an absolute duty to educate, promote and defend a healthier society for our patients and our land,” Bhargava said.

According to the BC Parks Foundation, 800 prescribers have signed up for the nature prescribing program across Canada.


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