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Green Prescriptions going global

Hon Tony Ryall
Minister of Health

20 May 2013

Green Prescriptions going global

Over 250,000 Green Prescriptions have been issued to New Zealanders from their GP or practice nurse to encourage them to eat healthier, get active and improve their health since the initiative began.

“And Budget 2013 will double the number of Green Prescriptions issued over the next four years,” says Health Minister Tony Ryall.

The initiative, established by the National Government in 1998, is a health professional’s written advice to support patients to have a more active and healthier lifestyle.

The “prescription” is forwarded to a provider, often a regional sports trust, who encourages the patient to become more active through phone calls, face-to-face meetings or support groups and provides information on local activities, such as aqua aerobics and walking groups.

“The internationally recognised initiative has helped thousands of New Zealanders improve their health,” says Mr Ryall.

“A year ago things were getting a bit difficult for 72 year old Brian Kelly from the West Coast – he had type 2 diabetes, needed to lose a little weight, and was struggling with his mobility.

“Brian said the Green Prescription from his doctor was the motivation he needed to start exercising and he’s very happy with the results - his diabetes is now under control, he’s lost over five kilograms and got his mobility back.

“Last year a record 36,000 adults were issued a Green Prescription and over 24,000 adults have been issued one so far this year.”

Mr Ryall said the benefits of New Zealand’s Green Prescription initiative is going global.

“CBC News reported this month that Canadian doctors are now writing prescriptions for exercise to patients as a means to prevent and treat a host of illnesses.

“In the article, Dr Justin Balko, a Canadian GP and president of the Leduc Beaumont Devon Primary Care Network said he was inspired by researchers in New Zealand.”

“They've published studies in medical journals showing how doctors' prescriptions for exercise in that country [New Zealand] can increase physical activity in adults by 10 per cent for at least a year,” said Dr Balko.

“There is a sense of tangibility and authoritativeness to a prescription. People understand what a prescription is. They know it's not just a good idea. It's a health expert telling them that they want to do this for their own health,” said Dr Balko.

Mr Ryall says Canadian doctors have been prescribing exercise to patients at risk for obesity and chronic diseases such as diabetes for the past year and are starting to see the same positive results we see in New Zealand.

“After 14 successful years, the National Government’s Green Prescription is now internationally recognised as an effective way of increasing physical activity and is making significant improvements to people’s health.”

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