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Growing number of doctors prescribing nature, parks to patients

A Seattle doctor says time in nature has shown to decrease anxiety, improve mood and children behavior, and even sleep.

SEATTLE — A growing movement of doctors are writing out nature prescriptions for their patients.

This all began with Park Rx America, a national nonprofit started by a pediatrician in Washington D.C. Doctors who register through the nonprofit and use the method are actually prescribing specific parks to patients and telling them to do specific activities.

Just like a physician may write out a prescription for medication and ask that a patient take a specific amount a given number of times a day, doctors are prescribing nature spots and asking that patients do an activity in them for a specific duration a given amount of times a week or day.

Dr. Atoosa Kourosh, a Seattle pediatrician, said she has been a registered doctor with Park Rx ever since it started.

"Time in nature has shown to decrease anxiety, improve mood and children behavior and even sleep," said Kourosh, who works at International Community Health Services in Seattle and Shoreline.

"A lot of children who are diagnosed with ADHD, what they actually have is called NDD or Nature Deficit Disorder, and so a lot of these children could be well managed without medication if they get enough nature time," Kourosh said.

Park Rx is a collaboration between parks and healthcare providers, and Washington State Parks is working with a number of doctors in the Seattle area.

Kourosh said the program is also an incentive to improve parks and make them safe.