Canadian Doctors Can Now Prescribe Patients Passes to National Park Systems

Following a partnership forged between Canadian parks systems and PaRx, an organization founded upon connecting individuals with nature as a means of therapy, Canadian doctors and therapists are now able to issue passes to national parks as prescriptions.

Lake Louise and the Rocky Mountains are seen in Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada. Credit: Getty Images
Lake Louise and the Rocky Mountains are seen in Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada. Credit: Getty Images

Doctors and therapists in Canada can now prescribe their patients access to the country’s national parks, national historic sites, and national marine conservation areas, if they believe spending time in those places can help the individual(s)’ health.

The development comes as a result of a partnership between Parks Canada and the organization PaRx, and it’s modeled off of a similar “national nature prescription program” in the U.S.

Several studies have shown that spending time outdoors and in nature can lead to a range of mental and physical health benefits, from increased exercise, to lower stress hormones, to higher self-esteem among children.


 

Dr. Melissa Lem, a physician and PaRx director, said access to national parks and similar sites can also help patients cope with their fear of climate change or “eco-anxiety”— an increasingly common feeling among many who seek therapy in modern times, per both the New York Times and the Washington Post.

Lem shared an excerpt from the Washington Post’s article on Twitter, writing, “‘If you ❤️ something, you want to protect it,” Lem said. “I like to think that every time I or one of my colleagues writes a #PaRx, we’re also doing our part for the 🌎.’ Thanks @TikRoot @washingtonpost for covering our @bcparksfdn x @ParksCanada collab.”
 

“We are very lucky in Canada to have a world of beautiful natural spaces at our doorstep to enjoy healthy outdoor activities. Medical research now clearly shows the positive health benefits of connecting with nature,” said Canada’s Minister of Environment & Climate Change Steven Guilbeault, who also oversees Parks Canada, via a PaRx press release. “I am confident this program will quickly show its enormous value to the well-being of patients as it continues to expand throughout the country.”

In being able to prescribe their patients an Adult Parks Canada Discovery Pass as part of their treatment, doctors and therapists are asked to “prioritize those who live close to [such sites] and who could benefit from it the most.”