• Unity, RAND, and Park Rx America to Research Prescribing Park Use to Improve Health: First large-scale Randomized Controlled Trial on Park Prescriptions


    Washington, D.C. – October 15, 2019
    – Dr. Deborah Cohen, a physician researcher at RAND and Dr. Robert Zarr, a staff pediatrician at Unity Health Care (Unity) and founder of Park Rx America, have partnered as co-principal investigators on a National Institutes of Health research grant to investigate the health outcomes of patients prescribed time in local parks.

    “RAND, Unity Health Care, and Park Rx America are partnering for the first time, and I am excited that the National Institutes of Health has recognized the importance and urgency of examining clinical health outcomes as they relate to prescribing nature as actual prescriptions,” said Dr. Zarr. 

    The study will look at the impact of park prescriptions at Unity’s Upper Cardozo Health Center, which serves 25,000 patients at over 100,000 visits per year. Patients at Upper Cardozo represent a diverse community, including 55% who are Latino, 37% are black/African-American, 19% are uninsured and over 70% who are on a public insurance such as Medicaid.  

    The newly funded study builds on a smaller study conducted in 2013 at Upper Cardozo Health Center that showed park prescriptions increased a child’s weekly physical activity. Drs. Cohen and Zarr plan to recruit 1000 patients between the ages of 6-16 years of age to investigate the changes in physical activity, BMI, glycosylated hemoglobin, lipids, and ADHD at baseline, 3, 6, 12, and 24 months over the course of 2 years.

    “Given that thousands of doctors and other health professionals have been prescribing nature for more than a decade, this research study is timely in that we can methodologically and scientifically explore the clinical relevancy of prescribing nature,” said Dr. Zarr.

    About Unity Health Care
    As the largest network of community health centers in Washington, D.C., Unity Health Care provides a full-range of health and human services to meet the needs of our communities through a network of over 20 traditional and non-traditional health sites and a mobile medical outreach vehicle. Our team of compassionate and multicultural health professionals place Unity values into action every day to bring whole-person care and wellness to over 104,000 patients through 500,000 visits annually. Deeply rooted in the District’s neighborhoods for over 30 years, Unity strives to promote healthier communities through compassion and comprehensive primary and specialty health care and wrap-around services, regardless of ability to pay.

    About Park Rx America

    In 2017, Dr. Zarr founded Park Rx America (PRA), a non-profit organization whose mission is to educate health professionals about the benefits of prescribing nature and to provide an electronic platform for health professionals to locate and prescribe visits to parks. PRA’s codified park prescription specifies place (a park), activity, dose, and frequency. Prescriptions are delivered electronically (via text message) with a reminder for the patient to fill his/her prescription. PRA’s park prescribing platform provides a doctor-friendly method to document the park prescription in the medical record. Clinicians take advantage of the added clinical value of specificity, electronic reminders, and a patient/client-centered commitment to redirect the trajectory of illness into one of health.