Prescription Trails: Go take a hike for better health

September 1, 2011 • Local News

Doctors in Roswell may soon be prescribing something that’s free, fun, 100 percent natural [auth] and best of all, can help prevent a multitude of illnesses.

Through an initiative called Prescription Trails, Roswell doctors could soon be prescribing something as simple as walking to their patients. Prescription Trails began in Albuquerque in 2006 as part of the New Mexico Health Care Takes On Diabetes program. Prescription Trails has since been adopted by Santa Fe and Las Cruces. Staff at the New Mexico Department of Health Region 4 office — which has been instrumental in bringing Prescription Trails to Roswell — discussed the initiative over a healthy, fruit-and-veggie-packed lunch Tuesday afternoon. A surprise special guest — the New Mexico Department of Health Secretary Catherine Torres — accompanied them.

Even more than simply having doctors tell their patients to walk, the Prescription Trails program requires that a community identify safe and accessible walking trails. These trails must be wheelchair accessible, for example, and safe enough for families to walk.

Julie Morrow, nurse health educator for Region 4, gave a presentation all about the local trails that made the list. These include: Hagerman Football Field and Track, Hal Bogle Sports Complex, Lake Van, Dexter Demon Track and Football Stadium, two tracks at Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell; the commuter trail located between Poe Street and Hobson Road, South Park Cemetery, the track at Roswell High School, Russ DeKay Soccer Complex, two trails at Cielo Grande Recreation Area, Del Norte Park, two corridors at Eastern New Mexico Medical Center, two trails at Bottomless Lakes State Park, and three trails on the Spring River corridor.

All Prescription Trails walking areas will be listed in guidebooks, which will include information about where the walking trails are located, their distance, and their difficulty level. Morrow said these guidebooks will be made available to physicians, who can then prescribe a specific walking trail that’s most convenient to the patient.

Morrow said the idea to bring Prescription Trails to Chaves County came from a presentation given as part of the Healthy Kids of Chaves County initiative. Much like the Healthy Kids, Prescription Trails focuses on the prevention of illness through increased physical activity and leading a healthy lifestyle.

“Being inactive is very costly, not only to the individual, but to the taxpayers,” Morrow said. Being active, she said, is “a win-win for everyone.” 

Torres said Region 4, which covers Chaves, Lea, Eddy, Roosevelt, Curry and Quay counties experiences an increased incidence of diabetes, heart disease, and smokers as compared to the rest of the state.

Torres suggested several ways to become healthier, such as watching what one eats. She cautioned that a healthy diet does not have to be restrictive, but does imply a certain amount of moderation.

“I don’t feel Mexican (food) is a bad thing,” Torres said as an example, “but you can’t have chicharrones all the time.” 

Torres said one of the best aspects about Prescription Trails is that it outlines places where people can walk.

“I love Prescription Trails, because a lot of people … don’t know where they can walk safely,” she said.

Torres said she’s walked some of the trails in Santa Fe and Las Cruces. She said walking is ideal because it allows people to be outside and enjoy their community, it helps in weight loss, and it reduces stress.

Morrow and Torres both said that as part of the DOH, they strive to set an example of healthy eating and physical activity. Morrow said staff at the DOH Region 4 office has recently started a challenge to eat more fruits and vegetables and stay active.

“The Department of Health is an example to the community,” Morrow said. She said her office staff does not “just talk the talk, but walk it, and we literally have.” 

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