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Doctors are Prescribing Park Visits to Boost Patient Health

from National Geographic

South Dakota doctors routinely write prescriptions for everything from painkillers to ointments. This year, however, they’ll have a more novel option at their disposal: park prescriptions. Printed on a notepad with an “Rx” symbol in the top-left corner, a park prescription instructs a patient to take one free day at “any South Dakota state park or recreation area.”

Doctors get these prescriptions through a new program run by the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks and the state‘s Department of Health. Although the initiative was piloted in 2015, this is the first year that prescriptions will be available statewide.

“We did a bigger push here in May,” said program coordinator Nikki Prosch. There are commercials and marketing and doctors can sign up to participate online. “We're opening it to any healthcare provider.”

The South Dakota program is one of dozens of other similar efforts across the country, ranging from “Docs in the Park” in Baltimore to “Prescription Trails” in Albuquerque. Catherine Carlton helps run, a network linking park prescription initiatives, and she says the movement has grown dramatically since it began in 2009. more

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