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Barton Health and Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit Sign Community Health and Wellness Agreement

South Lake Tahoe, CA – Solidifying a nationally recognized community wellness program, Barton Health and the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit (LTBMU) signed an agreement yesterday for cooperative Wellness Outings: guided walks that promote nature as medicine by teaming patients with a U.S. Forest Service ranger and physicians or nurses from Barton Health for guided outings in the national forest. In addition to Wellness Outings, the partnership will provide wellness and injury prevention trainings for USFS rangers and firefighters, as well as accessibility of public lands to promote outdoor recreation.

The purpose of the agreement is to document the cooperation between both organizations to promote and utilize national forest lands in the Lake Tahoe Basin to enhance community wellness including programs that address nutrition, exercise, stress, and an individual’s sense of purpose.

Barton Health and LTBMU will work together to conduct community outreach, develop patient information packages, and promote health-related services in the South Lake Tahoe Community. The comprehensive program includes options for people with chronic or terminal illness, patients recovering from surgery, and at-risk youth.

“Barton recognizes the importance of our surrounding forest lands which provide an inspiring setting to achieve personal health-related goals during recovery and treatment,” said Dr. Clint Purvance, Barton Health President and CEO. 

The program has been nationally recognized as an innovative way for the U.S. Forest Service and health care organizations to improve community health. Barton Health physician and orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Stephen Bannar, Registered Nurse Khristy Gavigan, along with LTBMU National Resources Specialist and Presidential Management Fellow Joseph Flower, presented the successes of recent Wellness Outings at RecX, a conference run by the U.S. Department of the Interior in Washington, DC. The focus of the RecX conference was “Great Ideas for the Outdoors” and the Barton team shared the successes of the Wellness Outings and the implications for health across the country.

“We are delighted to reaffirm our combined commitment to provide therapeutic experiences on National Forest Service lands,” said Flower.. “This is an amazing opportunity to serve at-risk populations in our community and promote the healing benefits of nature and the outdoors through this partnership.”

Research indicates that time in nature lowers blood pressure, heart rate, and cortisol levels. It increases concentration, memory, and attention spans. It has been shown to boost immunity and is particularly beneficial for at-risk populations, such as those recovering from surgery, who often spend less time outside.

These benefits were something Dr. Bannar wanted his patients to experience – and he prescribed nature as medicine.

 “A prescription for nature can enable accessibility for at-risk groups as well as preventive medicine for other members of the community,” said Dr. Bannar. “We need to change our mindset from treating disease to promoting wellness.”

Interested community members can watch the RecX presentation and get additional information about Wellness Outings online.