Student’s internship work highlights the health and wellness benefits of being outside
As part of her senior-year internship with Southern Maine Conservation Collaborative (SMCC), an agency that aims to strengthen conservation organizations through technical assistance, shared resources, and networking, Hannah Laskey (Public Health, ’21) helped bring a program to Maine that provides relief to patients suffering from chronic disease by prescribing them time in nature.
Park Rx is a non-profit organization whose mission is to decrease the burden of chronic disease, increase health and happiness, and foster environmental stewardship by virtue of prescribing nature during the routine delivery of healthcare by a diverse group of health care professionals.
Laskey, through her internship, helped catalogue and upload nearly 100 different parks, trails, and playgrounds throughout the city of Portland to the Park Rx America website for health care providers to easily access and prescribe for their patients.
“Since I started studying public health, I have had a growing interest in disease prevention and program development,” Laskey explained. “Interning with SMCC to bring Park Rx to Maine was the perfect opportunity for me to gain experience in both of those focus areas and practice the skills I have learned from my education.”
More than 100 million Americans currently suffer from chronic disease. More than two-thirds of American adults currently suffer from obesity, which contributes to chronic disease. Chronic disease results in decreased quality of life and, ultimately, premature death.
“I believe that by exposing ourselves to nature we are increasing our likelihood of physical activity and, in turn, reducing our risk of chronic diseases,” Laskey stated. “I also know there is a lot to be said for the mental health benefits of spending time outdoors. There's a ton of research showing that it can reduce stress, anxiety, and increase happiness levels.”
Park Rx America is a low-cost intervention that utilizes a known, trusted, and accessible resource to influence positive health outcomes.
"As stress levels and wellness concerns rise amid the pandemic, Hannah and SMCC's leadership of the Park Rx project will empower Maine healthcare providers to help their patients connect with local outdoor resources,” commented Collyn Baeder, M.P.H., assistant clinical professor and internship coordinator for Health, Wellness, and Occupational Studies. “These nature-based interventions are not only shown to promote wellness and reduce stress, they also enable distanced social engagement and reduced transmission of COVID-19.”
To learn more about Park Rx, visit https://parkrxamerica.org/providers