By Keith G. Tidball, Ph.D. and Coral Owen, MS
Outdoor Rx has been in the conversation of veteran well-being for nearly a decade. For those unfamiliar, Outdoor Rx is an effort to take the benefits to health and well-being of time spent outdoors out of the abstract “nice to do” category and into the medical practice, via a “prescription” for individuals to get outside. The objective, of course, is to improve mental and physical health through nature-based recreation. Time recreating in nature can facilitate personal growth, reflection, rejuvenation, community connection, and physical activity (Millenium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005).
Launched in 2018, the Veteran Affairs Whole Health Initiative addresses all aspects affecting one’s well-being through the Circle of Health. Stemming from this foundation, the Outdoor Rx Act was signed into law in New York on November 11, 2020. The first-of-its-kind legislation aims to improve veterans’ access to public lands and recreational spaces. At the federal level, the Accelerating Veterans Recovery Outdoors Act (H.R. 2435) was passed in the spring of 2022. This bill requires the Department of Veterans Affairs to establish the Task Force on Outdoor Recreation for Veterans to report on and make recommendations regarding the use of public lands or other outdoor spaces for medical treatment and therapy for veterans.
Though the Veterans Administration is paving the way with Outdoor Rx for those who have previously served, the benefits of time spent recreating in nature hold tremendous potential for those currently serving and their families. In 2015, OneOp began conversations around outdoor recreation and the related community-based benefits for service members. You can read more about this foundational conversation in this OneOp blog post or view the on-demand webinar. You’re invited to join us in September for further exploration of the positive impacts of Outdoor Rx on military family resilience and well-being.
Millenium Ecosystem Assessment (2005). Ecosystems and Human Well-being: General Synthesis. http://www.millenniumassessment.org/en/Synthesis.html