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NatureRx, the nature prescription

A community health wellness program

Let’s talk about the beautiful parks and trails and the abundance of nature-related activities in Rutland and surrounding counties. Then, let’s talk about how outdoor activity can be a prescription for your health. Put them together and you get a movement called NatureRx. Community Health has partnered with Come Alive Outside (CAO) for two 12-week NatureRx programs designed to help people develop healthy lifestyles by being active and spending more time outside.

“Individuals or families will have access to a health coach once a week,” said Andrea Wicher, Community Health’s director of population health and quality. “NatureRx participants will keep a journal of their activity and their provider will document basic health data like blood pressure and weight and maintain a progress report.”

The Community Health program is designed to work with cohorts of 50 patients twice a year, aiming to reach 100 patients with this preventive wellness program.

Here’s how it works. Doctors and health care providers initiate conversations with patients about the health benefits of spending time in nature. The NatureRx referral suggests activities such as working in a garden twice a week, or taking a short walk three times a week. These activities increase the amount of time a patient spends outside and increases their level of physical activity. The CAO NatureRx coordinator will support participants after they get an outdoor referral from their health care provider. During the 12-week program, each participant receives one-on-one weekly health coaching, as well as tools for setting and tracking their goals. Participants will check in with their Community Health provider to look at how the program is impacting their health and wellness.

“We are thrilled that Community Health is sponsoring and having such a hands-on partnership with the NatureRx program,” said Come Alive Outside Program Director Myra Peffer. “Having Community Health’s providers capture pre- and post-health data on program participants will show the health benefits of this program in a way we never have been able to measure before. We hope this program becomes a model across Vermont.”

Several ParkRx/NatureRx programs exist around the U.S., Peffer said. Working with UVM, Come Alive Outside recently rolled out an updated NatureRx model incorporating other best practice programs from across the country. For more information on ParkRx/NatureRx programs

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