GENEVA — Visitors to University Hospitals in Geneva might begin getting an interesting prescription — a visit to the park.

UH Geneva has teamed up with the Ashtabula County Metroparks for the “Parks Rx Program” to get people outside and active.

“This is being done all through the country,” Ashtabula County Metroparks Executive Director Larry Frimerman said.

As part of the program, UH Health professionals will select “appropriate outdoor activities for patients and provide the ‘prescription’” complete with a Metroparks brochure.

“Our physician’s offices are going to start recommending different fitness exercises through the Metroparks, and providing our patients with maps and guides that will tell them where these Metroparks are located within the county,” UH spokesperson Denise DiDonato said.

That could include health and wellness activities such as walking or biking, rehabilitating after surgery or “simply enjoying nature’s beauty,” according to the Metroparks. 

“From my point of view, some of the best healers are both food and activity. What you eat, what you drink and what you do with your body are the most important things,” Dr. Evan Howe, of UH Geneva, said. “Really, just brief exposure to seeing, smelling some trees can do great things for mood, fighting off infections, improving blood pressure, sugar metabolism. So all the stuff we see in the office on a regular basis, honestly, the foundation of managing comes from being outside in the parks.”

Frimerman said the Parks Rx Program was a “real credit,” not just to University Hospitals but to the health community in general, which “has moved from a model of treating illnesses to promoting wellness.”

The Ashtabula County Metroparks operates 10 parks in the county currently, with more in the works. Frimerman said that includes 2,000 acres of land, 28 miles of hike and bike trail, 15 miles of primitive trails and five miles of equestrian trails.

Howe said he was excited by the prospect of planned additions to the Greenway Trail, including the Pymatuning Valley Greenway. 

“We have so much to enjoy here,” Frimerman said. “And, you know, when I came (here), people said ‘Well, you know, our natural areas are a hidden jewel.’ And then we’ve heard over the last few years that our parks are hidden jewels. So, you know, the first step is building it, and now, it’s promoting it and talking about it and getting people there.”

 

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