UCSF Sustainability Stories

Spotlight on Sustainability:  Dr. Daphne Miller Promotes the Park Prescription

MillerUCSF’s sustainability program is always looking for examples of faculty and staff working to make the connections between sustainability and health care.  Below we highlight the recent work and accomplishments of Daphne Miller, M.D., Associate Clinical Professor, Department of Family and Community Medicine.

Dr. Miller has coined the term “Park Prescription”:  a movement to create a healthier population by strengthening the connection between the healthcare system and spending time in natural, open space.  It involves prescribing to patients that they spend time in nature, with the goal to increase physical activity to prevent and treat health problems from inactivity and poor diet.

While the convergence of natural lands and health is still a fringe topic, it is a growing area of peer-reviewed research and Dr. Miller is actively involved in promoting the concept nationally, garnering the attention of both the recreation and medical establishments in Washington.

Her work was recently highlighted in an article in the New York Times and she spoke last year to the Bay Area Open Space Council, as well as actively participating in the Institute at the Golden Gate’s Park Prescription Initiative.  She was also a featured speaker at the ARC’s Partner Outdoors 2010 conference.

Take Five Minutes and Call Me in the Morning

open spaceDid you know that only five minutes of exercise in nature can boost your mood and improve self-esteem?

Miller has actually started to give park prescriptions in her office, providing patients a specific prescription, something she writes on a pad, to motivate patients.  She uses two web-based resources, the California State Parks Find Recreation website and the Bay Area Open Space Council’s Transit to Trails website, providing patients a concrete “prescription” with directions, maps and distances to open space areas.

Miller explains, “Nature has the possibility to be a health care intervention, a prescription, almost like a pill. In many of the studies, there is a dose response relationship.  The more you get, the better the outcome.”

She points to recent research published in the Environmental Science and Technology journal. The research looked at people with moderate depression and found a minimum of five minutes outside in greenery decreased depression scores 40-50 percent, more effective than a typical antidepressant, which decreases scores around 20-30 percent.

Miller is working to integrate the connection between nature and health into her teaching at the Osher Center and medical school.

To Learn More

New York Times
Parks Prescriptions: Profiles and Resources for Good Health from the Great Outdoors
Washington Post