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When pediatric primary care providers prescribe nature engagement at a state park, do children “fill” the prescription?


Pediatric primary care providers issue nature prescriptions regardless of their own personal connections with nature

A pilot study was conducted to examine if the use of a written nature prescription (Park Rx) would encourage children to get out in nature at a nearby state park. A Park Rx directs the child and family to engage in outdoor activities that can improve health. The goal of a Park Rx is to encourage a change in behavior resulting in the child spending more time in unstructured outdoor play in nature. This study also assessed the primary care providers’ (PCPs’) nature relatedness (NR) in relation to their nature prescribing patterns.

Twenty-four PCPs participated in this study representing eleven different pediatric offices located in in a small state in the Northeast. Participants issued a combined 1,935 park prescriptions for children aged 6 – 10 during their well-child visits. The PCPs used the written prescription (the Park Rx) as a tool for starting a conversation with the child and his or her family on the value of nature for physical and mental health. The Park Rx included a free day family pass to any state park day use area. Thirteen percent of the state park passes were redeemed within the 15-week summer park season and reflected family visits to 16 different parks.

Participating PCPs completed the Nature Relatedness (NR) questionnaire — a self-report measure of an individual’s affective, cognitive, and physical relationship with the natural world. Additionally, participating PCP’s were asked at three different points in time (before, during, and one year after the pilot program) to share their views about discussing the importance of nature for children during a well-child exam.

The participating PCP’s indicated that participation in the study, along with several reminders throughout the study, influenced their Park Rx prescription writing more than their personal beliefs relating to nature. This self-report data was consistent with the analysis of the PCP’s NR scores, in that PCP’s with both low and high NR scores issued Park Rxs in equal amounts.

The authors suggest that these findings support the practice of counseling school-age children on the value of nature during well-child exams.


Coffey, J.S., Gauderer, L., (2016). When pediatric primary care providers prescribe nature engagement at a state park, do children “fill” the prescription?. Ecopsychology, 8(4), 207-214.


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