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In Canada, Some Doctors Can Now Prescribe a Year-Long National Parks Pass

Parks Canada says it's backing a program in B.C., Ontario, Saskatchewan and Manitoba so doctors and nurses can prescribe a Parks Canada Discovery Pass

Parks Canada is joining the national nature prescription program known as PaRx, or A Prescription for Nature. It hopes to get patients into the wilderness for a minimum of two hours per week.

Parks Canada says the prescription program will take place in B.C., Ontario, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Doctors and nurses will be able to prescribe a Parks Canada Discovery Pass (a cost of $72) to patients suffering mental and physical health problems.

“We need to reduce barriers to nature,” said Dr. Melissa Lem, a Vancouver-based family physician who launched PaRx in 2020 with the BC Parks Foundation. “(The park pass) makes the message even more powerful and easier to follow… It is a big deal.”

Only those physicians registered with PaRx can prescribe a pass, and while “anyone with any health condition” qualifies for a nature prescription, Lem said physicians are encouraged to target the park passes. “There’s this huge body of research showing that nature time can improve all kinds of different physical and mental health conditions, from diabetes and heart disease to ADHD and depression,” she explained.

In a written statement, Minister of the Environment and Climate change Steven Guilbeault described the new collaboration as a “breakthrough” in how practitioners treat mental and physical health. Lem says the nature prescription program is expected to spread across every province and territory by the end of 2022.

The pass offers unlimited admission for a year at over 80 national parks, national historic sites and national marine conservation areas, territory that together covers more than 450,000 square kilometres of land and water.

A lot of Canada’s world class climbing, skiing, hiking and paddling can be found in the national parks, so hopefully this will allow more people to discover some great adventures.