Pediatricians are seeing more and more patients suffer from ailments associated with obesity, lack of exercise, poor diet and all the other health problems associated with staying indoors.
For treatment, an increasing number of doctors are creatively prescribing kids with an old remedy: nature.
Actually writing a prescription for outdoor play, or Outdoor Rx, has become a growing trend among pediatricians in cities such as Boston, Philadelphia and San Francisco.
New studies show it can help increase physical activity, lower stress and address other mental health concerns.
In Philadelphia, pediatricians expect 20 percent of patients at two Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia centers (20,000 patents in total) will be referred to a “nature navigator,” a health care professional trained to counsel children and their families on available outdoor activities.
In San Francisco, simply providing a nature map was enough to encourage more families to spend time outdoors.
In Boston, while many families responded positively, many families lack the time and transportation options to follow through on their doctor’s order. Unfortunately, low-income and minority children are less likely to have access to open space and recreational facilities than other groups of children.
Outdoor play is an essential component for establishing bonds between children and nature. Those bonds can lay the foundation for teaching environmental education topics that build appreciation for wildlife, conservation and a low-carbon lifestyle.