National Environmental Education Foundation Joins with Pediatricians and National Park Service for Children’s Health

National Environmental Education Foundation Joins with Pediatricians and National Park Service for Children’s Health

By Evelyn Cunico, MA, MSLIS

Posted August 09, 2015

NEEF Children and Nature Initiative: Rx for Outdoor Activity

The National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) has partnered with pediatricians and the National Park Service (NPS) to create the “Children and Nature Initiative: Rx for Outdoor Activity.”

NEEF’s “Children and Nature Initiative: Rx for Outdoor Activity” strives to prevent health conditions, such as obesity and diabetes, related to sedentary lifestyles. The initiative aims to connect children and their families to nature, to promote good health, enjoyment, and care for the environment.

The U.S. Congress established NEEF within the National Environmental Education Act of 1990, as a complementary organization to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). NEEF relies on private support to provide science-based environmental information to the American people.

NPS Park Prescriptions Documentary Video

The National Park Service (NPS) has created a new video, Park Prescriptions Documentary, which explains the NEEF “Children and Nature Initiative: Rx for Outdoor Activity.”

The Park Prescriptions Documentary features a pediatrician from the Greater Washington, D.C. area, who explains that the NEEF “Children and Nature Initiative” is part of a larger effort in Family Medicine across the country to prescribe nature, with the goal of creating a “culture shift, from sitting to moving.”

With help from NPS park rangers, pediatricians and family medicine doctors in the Washington, D.C. and W. Virginia areas rate local parks according to criteria, such as, safety, accessibility, and activity level. A one-page summary is prepared for each park.

When a doctor sees a patient, the doctor prescribes a park that fits the patient’s needs. For example, the doctor writes on the prescription pad, “Get Outdoors. Enjoy Yourself.” The doctor includes the name and location of the appropriate park or “green space” on the prescription slip that is given to the patient.

Just as doctors today may routinely ask patients whether they wear a seat belt, or drink, or smoke, doctors one day may ask patients whether they spend time outside. We can embrace play, not necessarily exercise. Instead of saying, “I have to exercise,” we can say, “I get to go outside today.”

An NPS park ranger in the Park Prescriptions Documentary explains that 49 percent of Americans do not engage in the U.S. Surgeon General’s recommendation of 30 minutes of daily physical activity. The park ranger talks about the importance of helping young children to understand that parks should be preserved for personal health, as well as for historical and cultural knowledge.

Healthy Parks Healthy People

The NEEF “Children and Nature Initiative: Rx for Outdoor Activity” is part of a worldwide campaign, called Healthy Parks Healthy People , which explores connections between nature and human health by creating activities adapted to meet local community needs.

NEEF partners with corporations, foundations, government agencies, and other organizations, to encourage children and their families to enjoy healthy active fun in the outdoors, while taking care of our parks.

Following are information resources that suggest ways to help you and your children enjoy outdoor activities, preserve public parks, and live healthy lives.

Disclaimer: The information presented in this blog should not replace the medical advice of your doctor. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any disease, illness, or other health condition without first consulting with your medical doctor or other healthcare provider.

Information Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “Children’s Health and the Built Environment.” List of government and nonprofit organizations that provide information resources on how the built environment and parks can influence children’s health.
(Accessed 27 July 2015)

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity. School Health Guidelines to Promote Healthy Eating and Physical Activity . Nine guidelines to help develop, implement, and evaluate school-based healthy eating and physical activity policies and practices for students.
(Accessed 30 June 2015).

McCurdy, L.E., Winterbottom, K.E., Mehta, S.S., and Roberts, J.R. “Using Nature and Outdoor Activity to Improve Children’s Health .” Current Problems in Pediatric and Adolescent Health Care. 2010 May; 40(5):102-117. Reviews evidence of health benefits associated with safe unstructured outdoor activities as a lifestyle intervention.
(Abstract accessed 27 July 2015. Full Text PDF available for purchase from Elsevier ScienceDirect).

National Audubon Society. Home page. “Get Outside” activities, such as birding, photography, travel.
(Accessed 03 August 2015).

National Environmental Education Foundation. About NEEF.
(Accessed 27 July 2015)

National Environmental Education Foundation. “Children and Nature Initiative: Rx for Outdoor Activity .” Mission and activities of NEEF “Children and Nature Initiative.”
(Accessed 27 July 2015)

National Environmental Education Foundation. NEEF Corporate Partners.
(Accessed 08 August 2015)

National Environmental Education Foundation. NEEF Foundation Partners.
(Accessed 08 August 2015)

National Environmental Education Foundation. NEEF Government Partners.
(Accessed 08 August 2015)

National Environmental Education Foundation. NEEF Resources for “Children and Nature Initiative,” such as patient brochure, fact sheets, PowerPoint presentation, and “Rx for Outdoor Activity” tool for pediatric health care providers.
(Accessed 08 August 2015)

National Park Service (NPS) Centennial [2016]: Find Your Park.
(Accessed 27 July 2015)

National Park Service (NPS). “Experiences Search.” Search for a park experience by park name, key words, or one of five content categories: community, education, environment, history, or wellness/recreation.
(Accessed 27 July 2015)

National Park Service (NPS). “Explore Nature.” Resources, such as Park Science, Statistical Data, and Photos and Multimedia.
(Accessed 27 July 2015)

National Park Service (NPS). Index to News, Events, Photos, Multimedia, and Find a Park by State.
(Accessed 03 August 2015)

National Park Service (NPS). Office of Public Health. Healthy Parks Healthy People US. Describes five programmatic areas and seven guiding principles that heighten citizen awareness of the value of National Parks to the nation’s health.
(Accessed 27 July 2015)

National Park Service (NPS). Nature Prescriptions. Parks Prescriptions Documentary. Video describes the Nature Prescriptions program in the Washington, D.C. and West Virginia areas, which can be modified for use in local areas throughout the country.
(Accessed 03 August 2015)

Restall, B. and Conrad, E., “A Literature Review of Connectedness to Nature and Its Potential for Environmental Management. 2015 August; 159:264-278. Reviews literature 2002-2011 on SCOPUS, to explore how connectedness to nature might be useful for environmental planning and conservation.
(Abstract accessed 06 August 2015. Full Text PDF available for purchase from Elsevier ScienceDirect.)

U.S. Department of Interior. Bureau of Land Management. How to visit national monuments, national conservation areas, scenic rivers, historic trails, and wilderness study areas.
(Accessed 03 August 2015)

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Let’s Go Outside!” Resources include events for kids, families, youth group leaders, and educators.

U.S. Forest Service. “Find a Forest or Grassland” near to you.
(Accessed 03 August 2015)

U.S. Forest Service. “Just for Kids.” Resources for kids, parents, and educators include information on science and technology, climate change, plants, and animals.
(Accessed 03 August 2015)

Zelenski, John M. and Nisbet, Elizabeth K. “Happiness and Feeling Connected: The Distinct Role of Nature Relatedness.” SAGE Journals. Environment and Behavior. 2014 January; 46(1):3-23. Defines nature relatedness as subjective connection with nature, and, in two studies, explores the measurable link between nature relatedness and happiness, as well as environmental sustainability.
(Abstract accessed 08 July 2015. Full Text PDF Free 2015 SAGE Publications. Source: 2014 Journal Citation Reports Thomson Reuters, 2015)

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