Doctors in Canada Can Prescribe Annual National Park Passes to Patients

LeoPatrizi/iStock via Getty Images
LeoPatrizi/iStock via Getty Images / LeoPatrizi/iStock via Getty Images

Nature is the best medicine for some problems, as numerous studies have shown. Soon, people in Canada will have a good reason to make spending more time outdoors part of their regular health routine. As National Parks Traveler reports, medical professionals in four Canadian provinces can now prescribe annual passes to the country's national parks.

Park Prescriptions (PaRx) has joined forces with Parks Canada to make national park prescriptions accessible to people in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario. A year-long, unlimited pass to the protected parks, historic sites, and marine conservation areas in Canada's system normally costs $72.25 for adults. (Entry is always free for guests 17 and younger.) Through the new program, nurses, doctors, and other health care providers can prescribe the passes as easily as they would conventional medication.

Anyone who's enjoyed a calming stroll through a forest may be aware of the benefits of green spaces. But the positive effects of being outdoors aren't limited to mental health. According to a study from 2015, women who lived around trees were less likely to develop heart disease than women whose local tree population had been decimated by insects. Research also links exposure to nature to better eyesight, enhanced creativity, and stronger immune defenses.

“Medical research now clearly shows the positive health benefits of connecting with nature,” Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister for Parks Canada, said in a statement. “This exciting collaboration with PaRx is a breakthrough for how we treat mental and physical health challenges, and couldn’t come at a better time as we continue to grapple with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on our daily lives.”

The BC Parks Foundation launched Park Prescriptions in British Columbia in November 2020. It's currently only available to patients in four provinces, but Park Prescriptions plans to bring access to Quebec, Alberta, and New Brunswick next before expanding to the rest of Canada.

[h/t National Parks Traveler]