Nature prescriptions on the agenda


We’re all familiar with the old medical adages ‘take two and call me in the morning’, or ‘get some rest and keep your fluids up’. Well another one along the lines of ‘go take a walk in the park’ might just be entering the fray in the ACT later this year, with the Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate (EPSDD) currently developing a nature prescriptions program with a number of stakeholders.

Modelled off existing programs that have run successfully in the USA and New Zealand, EPSDD Executive Ian Walker told an inquiry for the Standing Committee on Nature in Our City that theprogram will be a partnership between health providers and environmental professionals, where health providers prescribe, encourage and promote activity in nature.

“From both a physical and mental perspective, the evidence nationally and internationally is overwhelming that getting people active in nature, and also in groups to break down social isolation, is extremely powerful,” he said.

“In New Zealand, where they have a proportion of the population that are overweight not dissimilar to Australia’s, not dissimilar to Canberra’s, they are showing remarkable improvements in health outcomes.”

Mr Walker said that given Canberrans live on average less than 2.5 kilometres from nearby nature, it is very easy for us to connect.

“We are a small jurisdiction; so we have a network of health providers whom we can work with and we can encourage people to get into that space.”

Minister for the Environment Mick Gentleman told the inquiry that the program is part of a government strategy to further public health and wellbeing by utilising our nature parks.

“If we can encourage people to get out and use those active spaces we can not only give them the opportunity to make themselves better in a health sense but also there is less impact on the health system,” Mr Gentleman said.

Mr Walker said he’s been working closely with the ACT Health Directorate and others to develop the local nature prescriptions program, as they look to kick it off in the new financial year.

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