D.C. Doctor’s Rx: A Stroll in the Park Instead of a Trip to the Pharmacy

 

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Unity Health Care pediatricians Robert Zarr and María Rueda-González walk in Meridian Hill Park. Zarr created a pioneering database of all 350 or more green spaces in the District with information about safety, access and facilities and integrated it into Unity’s electronic health records. (Kate Patterson/The Washington Post)

Robert Zarr is walking from his Columbia Heights medical practice toward Meridian Hill Park, talking about what’s going on inside his head. If you could see his brain on an MRI, he says, far more extensive regions would be lighting up than if he were having this same conversation sitting at his desk.

Zarr, a pediatrician at Unity Health Care’s Upper Cardozo Health Center, has a special interest in the unseen benefits of getting outside. He is the “physician champion” of ­DC Parks Rx, an innovative community health program committed to combating the woes of urban living by prescribing time outdoors.

Zarr mentions obesity, diabetes and mental health disorders as he walks. “It only takes a couple of kids” with symptoms of ADHD to disrupt a classroom, he says, and teachers start recommending their parents talk to pediatricians about Ritalin or other medical interventions. Continue reading