Tennessee Parks want doctors to start writing prescriptions for time outdoors. And state parks are now building an app that could eventually integrate with patient records.
Park systems around the country, including the National Park Service, have been pushing for doctors to see exercise in the fresh air as a potential treatment for everything from diabetes to depression.
For the last few years, Tennessee Parks have been in a pilot phase. They send out colorful prescription pads to doctors with blanks for them to prescribe what to do and where. Ryan Jenkins is the ranger at Henry Horton and oversees the Healthy Parks, Healthy Person program. He says he knows the doctor's orders could be easy to dismiss.
"We all know what happens to a piece of paper when somebody gives it to you," Jenkins says. "Walk out the door and it goes in the trash. So we're trying to bypass that and make it a little more streamlined."
— Healthyparks (@_healthyparks) June 21, 2019
This month, the Tennessee Department of Health funded the program with a three-year $450,000 grant to build a more advanced smartphone app. It could potentially update electronic medical records so a physician could see if their patient is following the prescription. The money will also fund a full-time staffer.
Currently, the Healthy Parks, Healthy Person app has 4,300 registered users who've logged 67,000 activities, according to Jenkins. Users earn points and can redeem them for Tennessee Parks merchandise.