Removing Barriers to Nature Access and Improving Health Through Nature

The Washington Post
Published: 26 April 2023
Last edited: 11 July 2023
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Chronic diseases are the largest cause of mortality in Canada, costing $190 billion every year in treatment and lost productivity. Mental illness costs Canadians over $50 billion per year. Increasing access to nature is a powerful strategy for improving health and reducing healthcare costs.


PaRx is Canada’s national nature prescription program, led by health-care professionals who want to improve patient and planetary health by encouraging time spent in nature. The PaRx program makes it possible for health professionals to prescribe the health benefits of nature to any patient who would benefit from it. Collaboration between the BC Parks Foundation and Parks Canada on the PaRx program has expanded awareness of the health benefits of spending time in nature and increased the accessibility of Parks Canada administered places.


As the impacts of climate change on human health increase, increasing connections to nature will improve people’s health and resilience and increase public support for nature-based solutions.


North America
Scale of implementation
Coastal forest
Cold desert
Connective infrastructure, networks and corridors
Desert ecosystems
Forest ecosystems
Freshwater ecosystems
Grassland ecosystems
Green spaces (parks, gardens, urban forests)
Marine and coastal ecosystems
Pool, lake, pond
River, stream
Rocky reef / Rocky shore
Temperate deciduous forest
Temperate evergreen forest
Temperate grassland, savanna, shrubland
Tundra or montane grassland
Urban ecosystem and build environment
Urban wetlands
Wetland (swamp, marsh, peatland)
Access and benefit sharing
Biodiversity mainstreaming
Ecosystem services
Health and human wellbeing
Outreach & communications
Other theme
Healthy Parks Healthy People
Nature For All
Nature pour tous
Species Conservation and One Health Interventions
Risk communication, community engagement and behaviour change
Changes in socio-cultural context
Sustainable development goals
SDG 3 – Good health and well-being
SDG 17 – Partnerships for the goals
Aichi targets
Target 1: Awareness of biodiversity increased
Target 11: Protected and conserved areas
Business engagement approach
Direct engagement with associations




Social: The PaRx program addresses a nature deficit that negatively impacts people's health and well being. The PaRx program is improving health outcomes that increase support for nature protection, by allowing healthcare professionals to prescribe nature.  

Economic: The collaboration between the BC Parks Foundation and Parks Canada expanded the reach of the PaRx program. It targets patients who live close to Parks Canada places removing a financial barrier for patients who may not otherwise be able to experiece these places.

Environmental: The PaRx program is based on the demonstrated health benefits that come from spending time in nature. By prescribing nature as a tool to improve health outcomes for patients, the PaRx program is building connections between patients and nature. These connections strengthen long term public support for the protection of nature. 


  • Licensed healthcare professionals in Canada.
  • Canadians can be prescribed nature, who live where the PaRx program is active.
  • The collaboration between PaRx and Parks Canada targets Canadians who live in proximity to Parks Canada places.  

How do the building blocks interact?

By establishing clear connections between Canada’s national nature destinations and regulated health professions across the country, the concept of parks and protected areas as an integral part of our healthcare system is emphasized and developed. Decision-makers, health-care professionals and the general public are becoming increasingly aware that healthy people depend on healthy ecosystems. At the same time, population health improves as a result of more people gaining access to natural spaces. Expanding access to natural spaces in turn increases support for conservation objectives.


PaRx Program: Nature prescription program increases patient health and awareness of role of parks and protected areas in health and wellness.


Collaboration with PCA: Increased access to Parks Canada nature destinations and awareness of role of natural and protected areas in health.


Outreach and Engagement: Amplification of message regarding link between nature and health led to uptake in program participation leading to more access and health benefits. 


Increased support for conservation by experiencing nature: More people spending time in natural and protected areas leads to more support for conservation efforts.


The PaRx program collaboration with Parks Canada has helped to increase awareness of the importance of connecting people to nature for personal and planetary health, both in Canada and internationally:

  • In the month after the launch, there were over 90 media pieces in Canada and internationally. Including social media, the potential reach was 207,685,800 people exposed to information and evidence on the link between health and nature.
  • As of September 2022, over 9,500 licensed health professionals registered to prescribe nature through the program, including almost 5,000 doctors, or over 5% of all practising physicians in Canada.

PaRx continues to expand its reach and profile, improving patient and community well-being:

  • Over 3,000 prescriptions for nature have been issued through PaRx.  In June 2022, PaRx’s first prescriber survey revealed almost 80 per cent of respondents were prescribing nature to their patients monthly, primarily for mental health reasons such as anxiety, depression and stress.
  • PaRx was recognized by the World Health Organization in its COP26 Special Report on Climate Change and Health for inspiring protection and restoration of nature as the foundation of our health.

 Research indicates that intact, biodiverse natural spaces provide economic value through ecosystem services, that positively impact health.


Marjorie Schurman, one of the first patients prescribed nature through the PaRx program, described the benefits to her mental health in a special feature by CNN. Schurman visited a doctor for depression and was prescribed time in nature. Within six weeks she saw noticeable improvements in her well-being.


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Contributed by

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Tania Peters Parks Canada

Other contributors

BC Parks Foundation et PaRx
Parks Canada
Parks Canada