In mid-November of 2015 my travels took me to beautiful New Zealand! I was there primarily to speak at the Annual Meeting of the New Zealand Sports Medicine Association, but I also gave a few other talks. New Zealand is an amazing country with an endless array of beautiful sites and wonderful people. I was struck by how similar the culture there was to America and how kind the people were. While the land mass of New Zealand is fairly large, including a north and south island, the population is really quite small at roughly 4.5 million people. It is amazing that they only have 2 medical schools in the entire country, yet they have a state of the art healthcare system that includes something called the “Green Prescription”. This prescription allows fitness professionals to be reimbursed for working with patients to help them get more active. New Zealand has clearly shown that the Green Prescription is a smart and cost-effective way to help people stay healthy.
Walking with Dr. Tony Page at Sumner Beach
I was able to fly from LAX directly to Auckland, which is the largest city in New Zealand and located on the North Island. While there I was hosted by Christine King, who is a well-known sports nutritionist and long-time member of the NZ Sports Medicine Association. In Auckland, I spent a lot of time hiking and enjoying the beautiful sights of this seaside city. From there I traveled to the South Island of New Zealand and the beautiful city of Dunedin. I was hosted there by Dr. Hamish Osborne, who is a sports medicine physician and professor at the University of Otago, which is the country’s largest medical school and located right in Dunedin. Hamish is working hard to make sure every medical student understands the powerful health benefits of exercise and that they are prepared to offer the Green Prescription to their patients. While in Dunedin, I gave several talks to groups that included the general public, primary care physicians and a noon grand rounds at the hospital.
From there I traveled north to the beautiful city of Christchurch. This was the site for the 2015 New Zealand Sports Medicine Conference, where I served as the opening keynote speaker. I gave a talk on the health benefits of exercise and discussed how each patient’s minutes of exercise should be looked at as a “vital sign” that gets assessed at every visit. I further went on to say that those not doing the recommended 150 minutes per week of brisk walking (or some other comparable activity) should be automatically issued a Green Prescription to help them get more active. This message seemed to resonate with the audience and I believe New Zealand is fast becoming the model for how healthcare can support patients becoming more active to improve health.
Dinner with NZ sports med colleagues Dr. David Gerrard and Dr Hamish Osborne
Of course, while in New Zealand I made sure to get out for a walk every day. And there was no shortage of beautiful places to walk – from Waiheke Island in Auckland, to the Botanic Gardens in Dunedin to a beach side walk in Sumner (a seaside suburb of Christchurch) — I enjoyed some of the most beautiful walks I have even done. And the people of New Zealand love their physical activity and their sports teams – beginning with their world famous rugby team named the All Blacks. I was lucky enough to spend a great day walking with their team physician Dr. Tony Page, who toured me around some amazing places in Christchurch.
Thanks as always for reading my blog. I hope that you are also enjoying some great walks and spreading the word on the incredible health benefits that walking brings.
Feature photo caption: ‘Walking in Christchurch with friends from the NZ Sports Med Association’