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December 17, 2022

PaRx Endorsed by National Medical Association at COP15

Montréal, December 17, 2022 —

Today, while the world has its eyes on Canada, Canada’s national nature prescription program PaRx is being formally endorsed by the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) at the Canada Pavilion in the Palais des congrès de Montréal at COP15.

This endorsement is aligned with the CMA’s decision to be the first national physicians’ association in the world to enshrine nature prescribing in policy, recommended as a Call to Action in its Environmentally Sustainable Health Systems in Canada policy to increase environmental stewardship and improve patient health. 

“Spending time in nature is something that we can all benefit from, physicians and patients alike. The CMA is proud to endorse a nature therapy program that connects us to the land and all of the evidence-based outcomes it provides,” said Dr. Alika Lafontaine, President of the CMA.

The BC Parks Foundation launched PaRx in November 2020, starting in British Columbia, then expanding to every province across the country. Over 10,000 prescribers have now registered within Canada, including over five per cent of all practising physicians in the country. PaRx’s commitment to improving patient and planetary health was recognized by the World Health Organization in its COP26 Special Report on Climate Change and Health, where it was featured as a way to inspire protection and restoration of nature as the foundation of our health—one of only two case studies cited from North America.

PaRx has already been endorsed by major provincial health partners like BC Family Doctors, Alberta Medical Association, Ontario College of Family Physicians and Collège des médecins du Québec. Featuring practical, evidence-based online resources like quick prescribing tips and printable fact sheets, as well as an achievable green-time target of “2 hours per week, 20+ minutes each time,” PaRx aims to make nature prescriptions easy and effective for both prescribers and patients.

“I’m proud and grateful that the CMA is underlining how important access to nature is for health by lauding our program at COP15,” offers Dr. Melissa Lem, a family physician and Director of PaRx. “What’s more, research shows that children and adults who are more connected to nature are not only more likely to work to conserve it, but also engage in other pro-environmental behaviours,” says Dr. Lem. “I like to think that every time one of my colleagues writes a nature prescription, we’re supporting biodiversity values and making the planet healthier too.”

PaRx announced a partnering agreement with Parks Canada in January of this year, attracting overwhelming national and international attention. Licensed health-care professionals registered in the PaRx program can help reduce barriers to accessing nature for their patients by prescribing an Adult Parks Canada Discovery Pass. They are asked to prioritize those who live close to national parks, national historic sites, or national marine conservation areas, and who could benefit from the pass the most. Each registered prescriber can prescribe up to one Adult Discovery Pass per month.

Nature prescriptions are also being implemented around the world. The UK and other countries are now investing in park prescription pilots to help address mental and physical health problems and the resulting strain on their health-care systems and economies. As families across the country weather the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic and other respiratory infections, it’s a critical time for the health sector to promote the mental and physical health benefits of heading outdoors—for both their patients’ and their own health. That’s why the BC Parks Foundation is especially excited to spread the word about Canada’s nature prescription program to an international audience.

“Our goal at COP15 is to inspire governments and health leaders around the world to launch nature prescription programs of their own, scaling up our innovation internationally,” says Andy Day, CEO of the BC Parks Foundation. “We are in a critical decade to address biodiversity loss, Indigenous reconciliation, climate change and human health—and nature prescriptions are part of the solution.”

“Congratulations to PaRx and its partners for this innovative initiative that supports healthy living behaviours while encouraging everyone in Canada to enjoy the beautiful outdoor spaces across our country," offers The Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Health. "Healthcare providers play a vital role in encouraging individuals to engage in healthy behaviours that not only help reduce the risk of chronic diseases, but also improve overall physical and mental well-being.”

The BC Parks Foundation invites other partners, governments and funders to engage and collaborate with PaRx as it continues to grow within Canada.

Media contact:
Jennie McCaffrey, Director of Engagement

The BC Parks Foundation inspires British Columbians and our friends around the world to enhance parks through a spirit of gratitude and well-being. For more info visit bcparksfoundation.ca

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