What is the JUNTOS Park Prescription Initiative?
At Santa Clara Valley Medical Center (SCVMC), we strive to improve the health of the whole patient, and we know that regular access to nature and green spaces is essential for childhood development as well as the overall health of our bodies and minds. That’s why, in 2017, physicians and registered dietitians in the Pediatric Healthy Lifestyle Center (PHLC) started prescribing outings in nature to our patients through our JUNTOS Park Prescription Initiative. JUNTOS (which means “together” in Spanish) was developed in collaboration with Santa Clara County Parks whose park interpreters lead guided nature walks and the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department which coordinates the program, provides bilingual Spanish-speakers, and transports participants and their families to and from walks. JUNTOS is funded by the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority. This county-wide collaborative effort is the perfect example of how coming “together” as a community can benefit our collective health.
Why is getting out in nature important?
Scientific studies have shown that getting out and being active
- Can help decrease your risk of lifestyle-related illnesses like obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol and hypertension
- Helps lower your blood pressure and heart rate
- Improves your mood and can help decrease feelings
- of anger, fear, stress, isolation and depression
- Increases your overall sense of well-being
- Can help improve the quality of your sleep
- Can help improve cognitive functioning, which can lead to better performance in school for children
Why is it difficult for families to get out in nature on their own?
A variety of factors can prevent families from accessing nature,
ranging from uncomfortable weather conditions to systems and policies that affect access to nearby nature, or lack of transportation to safe green spaces. We know that some children and families experience these barriers more than others and have a higher risk of health disparities. The goal of the JUNTOS Park Prescription Initiative is to help families overcome barriers so that they can get outside and be active in nature.
How else do you help families get out in nature?
To help our patients and their families feel more comfortable
at JUNTOS park outings, our providers are right there with them, offering a familiar face, and exploring nature as a community. Being active together helps children and families develop a deeper sense of connection with other families in the community. It
also helps them develop a deeper sense of trust in their medical providers and improves our patient care. These positive social interactions can lead to an increased sense of social connectedness and improved health over the long-term.
We are continuing to work with our community partners to find
ways to expand our JUNTOS Initiative to build an even stronger connection between our providers in the clinics and our patient community. We are also working with the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department to develop a Santa Clara County Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights with the goal of instituting county-wide systems level changes that will ensure that all children in Santa Clara County have access to nature and the multitude of health benefits that it can provide.