“This park is nearly ideal” – A walk to rate, celebrate, and prescribe parks, in Washington, DC, USA

When I learned about the DC Park Prescription program championed by Robert Zarr, MD, MPH, who’s a local pediatrician and Immediate Past President of the DC Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, I asked/he offered to go on a walking meeting to learn more. Of course I said yes – walking meeting!

You can read about Robert’s work in his own words on the North Face blog: Doctor’s Orders :: Dr. Robert Zarr on “Move more outside- Park Prescription Project in Washington, DC” – Never Stop Exploring, and in our walk together, we walked to a regional park, Stanton Park, which he described to me as nearly ideal as parks go. He doesn’t just do this by intuition – a big part of this program is for community members to physically go to the parks where they live and rate their features. Much like anything a physician would prescribe, the features of a park can and should be matched to the needs of patients, he explained to me. Stanton, for example, is bordered by a church, a school, and has an enclosed playground where parents can bring children without fear of dogs. The rating serves many purposes – (1) The data and (2) The ownership of a community resource – to know and experience what exists in your neighborhood to keep you healthy is one step in the journey to being healthy.

I think we are both passionate about the fact that DC is the ideal place to have this conversation and a program like this. We have the most green spaces per capita in the United States, we are the most walkable city in the United States, and we have incredible disparities in health an wellness in a small geographic area (See: Do national numbers inaccurately represent Washington, DC’s obesity condition? what electronic and personal health records can do to help | Ted Eytan, MD and My #walkwithadoc and patient, exploring the determinants of health in Washington, DC Ward 8 | Ted Eytan, MD).

Robert also pointed out to me that some of the most health-challenged parts of our city actually have some of the best green spaces and parks.

We’re going to follow up with Robert taking the Center for Total Health (@kptotalhealth) team out to rate a park so we can learn about the process. The timing is just perfect because I was wondering the other day when to schedule the next walk with a doc. Now I know. We’ll open this one up to the community as well, so we can all learn. Watch this space for the invitation.

I think walking and Park Rx go hand in hand in hand – one of the goals of the walking meeting is to discover the community around you, and this provides a methodology to do it. I think Robert sparked yet another neuronal cluster in my brain devoted to the appreciation of Washington, DC. He asked if I had been to Lincoln Park recently. Answer, yep. I had :).

Equality and Beauty, Lincoln Park – View Million Puppet March 16987 on Flickr.com

Photos above, enjoy, comments welcome.

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Ted Eytan, MD