Prescribing nature for improved health

An opinion piece by pediatrician Robert Zarr and TLN Founding Director Naomi Sachs was published yesterday in The Hill, titled “Prescribing nature for improved health makes an economic case for the Land and Water Conservation Fund.” Here are a couple of snippets, and you can read the full piece here.

As a pediatrician with 20 years experience, I have seen and confronted, through thousands of patients, the health statistics we hear about in the news each day. The children and families I serve, right here in our nation’s capital, suffer and die prematurely from our modern-day plague: chronic disease. Children look more and more like their adult counterparts, as they view an average of seven hours per day of screen time and spend less than an hour per day outdoors, consume unhealthy foods and beverages and struggle with seemingly endless stressful schedules and checklists. Inactivity, poor diet and stress are strongly linked to obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and serious mental illness, including depression and anxiety, among other chronic diseases. Fortunately, there is a “vaccine” for this chronic disease epidemic: spend more time outdoors.

There is a renewed interest in creating urban and rural green spaces, specifically designed to improve health and wellness. As the Founding Director of the Therapeutic Landscapes Network, I have seen a renaissance in therapeutic landscape design that has reentered the health care world and beyond. Providers see the positive health impacts arising from green spaces and green infrastructure—trees, green roofs and green walls, rain gardens, and other nature-rich designs, in a variety of settings. This concept, extrapolated to both urban and rural community greenspace design, can support the health, wellness and economic vitality of individuals and entire communities, through such programs as the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

From both a public health and economic perspective, we must conserve, protect, and in some areas, create more public green spaces. The Land and Water Conservation Fund is a critical program that enables us, and future generations, to stay invested in our country’s health and well-being through the establishment and continued conservation and protection of urban and rural recreation areas and green spaces.

Zarr, R. & Sachs, N. A. (2018). Prescribing nature for improved health makes an economic case for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The Hill, December 17.

Robert Zarr is a pediatrician at Unity Health in Washington, DC and is the Founder and Medical Director of Park Rx America. He and Naomi have been working with the US Forest Service and Corazon Latino on several initiatives to bring people closer to nature. To learn more about how you can help with the Land and Water Conservation Fund, click here!