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Green Prescriptions Show Positive Benefits

Green Prescriptions Show Positive Benefits

Research published in today’s New Zealand Medical Journal (17 December) shows that formally prescribing exercise for patients who do not get enough physical activity is effective in both health and money terms.

A team of Auckland Medical School researchers led by Dr Raina Elley found that giving patients a ‘Green Prescription’ to get more intentional physical activity each week, resulted in improved activity levels and better quality of life (compared with a group who were not prescribed exercise), and was a low-cost way to achieve health gains.

Commenting on the results, NZMA Chairman Dr Tricia Briscoe said that Green Prescriptions do work.

“We find patients listen to their GPs when they get the message that they need exercise, and this research shows that the benefits follow."

The study found that ten percent of those who received the Green Prescriptions moved from a sedentary to an active lifestyle and kept it up for more than a year, compared with the control group. The researchers also compared the number and cost of accidents, GP visits and hospital visits between the two groups.

They found that it cost $1756 to convert one person from a sedentary to an active state for a year. However, the savings in services and hospital costs in the future due to better health may well make this a cost-saving programme.

“This has potential economic implications,” the researchers concluded. “If ten percent of the New Zealand population went from sedentary to active, an estimated $NZ55 million could be saved each year in costs associated with ischaemic heart disease and hypertension.

“If all less-active adults were to receive a Green Prescription, the total programme costs would be $150 million. This would save at least $55 million per year in the costs associated with cardiovascular disease alone.

“The potential savings could be even greater if quality-of-life benefits and all the other potential health benefits were considered.”


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