Nature can do wonders, to the point that some Scottish doctors are now encouraging their patients to go outside to treat themselves, exploring nature as part of a holistic treatment strategy.
Imagine your GP prescribes bird watching, planting seeds or contemplating a particular plant… Do you find that absurd? But the idea is very serious. Jointly conducted by NHS Shetland and RSPB Scotland, the “Nature prescriptions” project aims to improve the physical and mental health of patients by advising them on outdoor activities.
“There is evidence that nature has a health benefit to the body and mind,” notes Karen MacKelvie, responsible for community involvement in RSPB. So we have seen the opportunity to design a pamphlet that helps doctors describe the health benefits of nature, and provides many local ideas to help them stimulate the imagination of their patients. ”
The general idea is quite simple: to give a leaflet detailing how nature can benefit the human body, as well as a timetable indicating the things to see and do in the region – here the Shetland – at each time of the year. “The project provides patients with a structured way to access nature as part of a non-medicated approach to health problems,” says Chloe Evans of the Scalloway Health Center, who oversaw the pilot program in the Scottish city of Scalloway. The advantage for patients is that it is free, easily accessible and that it allows an increased connection with the environment that leads, hopefully, to an improvement in the physical and mental health of individuals.
Currently deployed in 10 offices of general practitioners of Shetland, the program intends to extend to the whole country – and why not soon to the whole United Kingdom. The idea here is not to replace traditional medicine, of course, but to propose a parallel treatment that can only strengthen the health of the patients concerned (better mental arrangements, less stress).