The Portage Park District recently launched its Park Prescription program, known as Park Rx. The program’s goal is to help the community get healthy and stay healthy while enjoying Portage Parks. Park Rx encourages visitors to use parks to focus on taking care of their health, including taking part in activities like walking or biking, rehabilitating after surgery or simply relaxing in the beauty of nature.
The Park Prescription program is a part of the Healthy Eating, Active Living (HEAL) priority for the Portage County Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP). As a part of this priority, Portage Park District has partnered with several local organizations and agencies to begin dispersing Park Rx materials to those who might benefit the most from the information. “The CHIP is a long-term, systematic effort to address community health problems that have been identified by consensus from community stakeholders. CHIP partners are working to create a community that encourages healthy eating, and active living. This can be accomplished through programs such as the Park Rx program”, said Joseph Diorio, Health Commissioner.
Current Park Rx partners include: AxessPointe Community Health Centers, Inc. in Kent; Kent State University, School of Health Sciences; NEOMED SOAR Clinic; Ohio WIC; Portage County Health District; Portage County Job and Family Services; Sequoia Wellness; University Hospitals Portage Medical Center.
“UH Portage MC is proud to support this Parks program. As the President of the hospital and a licensed Occupational Therapist, I encourage everyone who is able to take advantage of this program. Regular physical activity has numerous health benefits including heart health, increasing endurance, improving the delivery of nutrients to vital organs, and can help to improve mental clarity. As always, I would recommend speaking with your physician about your exercise prescription.” said Bill Benoit, President of University Hospitals Portage Medical Center. Partners of the Park prescription program will work directly with clients who would benefit from additional time in nature; they will share park activity flyers and encourage outdoor activities to increase overall health and wellness.
Portage Park District has created activity sheets for each park, offering general park information and sample activities that can be completed at each location. These activity sheets can be found at Portage Park District. Park Rx partner, Kent State University, School of Health Sciences is providing some funding for printed materials through a Maternal and Child Health Grant through the Ohio Department of Health.
“Park Rx is really a program for everyone in the community. With over 2,000 acres of land, 14 miles of hike and bike trail and nine miles of equestrian trails, it’s a great way to explore Portage County while also working toward healthy goals.” said Andrea Metzler, Public Engagement Coordinator for Portage Park District, “And this is just the beginning. We hope this pilot program will increase participation in outdoor activities and can continue to expand its reach to additional health care providers.”
Park Rx is a national initiative made up agencies that are dedicated to using nature and public lands to improve individual and community health. In October 2013, the Institute at the Golden Gate and the National Recreation and Parks Association, with support from the National Park Service, convened a group of practitioners to discuss the emerging trend of prescribing nature to improve mental and physical health. This group of park agencies, healthcare providers, and community organizations were inspired by the concept and eager to support Park Prescriptions as they moved beyond initial pilot tests into the mainstream. This group developed the National ParkRx Initiative with the goal of supporting the emerging community of Park Prescription practitioners.
For more information, visit Portage Park District or call (330) 297-7728. The Portage Park District’s mission is to conserve Portage County’s natural heritage and provide opportunities for its appreciation and enjoyment.