Key studies

Summaries of key studies into the effectiveness of Green Prescriptions.

A Novel Home-Based Intervention for Child and Adolescent Obesity: The Results of the Whānau Pakari Randomised Controlled Trial

The research by Yvonne Anderson et al was published in Obesity in November 2017.

The research studied children with obesity aged 5-16 who participated in programmes similar to Green Prescription Active Families. The Whānau Pakari programme had home visits with a comprehensive assessment (medical, dietary, physical and psychology screen) and advice. In addition, for the high-intensity group, family-based group activities including cooking sessions, virtual supermarket tours, growing vegetables, sports and physical activity, and psychology sessions, all to support healthy lifestyle changes were offered. 

The main 12 month findings comparing high and low intensity groups were:

  • consistent improvements in cardiovascular fitness in both groups
  • important improvements in quality of life in both groups (the change in the high intensity group shifted them to within the range of peers who do not have weight issues)
  • modest reductions in body mass index (BMI), adjusted for age and sex in both groups
  • the 22% of participants who attended more than 70% of weekly high intensity sessions had double the reduction in adjusted BMI. Some of them moved out of the obese BMI range into the overweight or normal weight ranges
  • the Whānau Pakari programme reached at risk children who may have missed out on healthcare: almost 3 in 10 children came from deprived neighbourhoods in Taranaki, 47% were Māori, 43% were New Zealand European. 

Dr Anderson notes “These findings are really important. If we are going to make a difference to those most affected by obesity, services that families feel comfortable with, and that fit in with their lives, are key’.” 

The Whānau Pakari programme had a wider multidisciplinary approach compared to Green Prescription Active Families, but was founded on the principals of the programme.

Long-term effectiveness of the New Zealand Green Prescription primary health care exercise initiative

This research, undertaken by Michael Hamlin et al., was published in Public Health, 25 August 2016.

The research indicates that:

  • The Green Prescription primary care intervention is effective over the longer term (2–3 years) for men and women.
  • Compliance in Green Prescription could be improved with more communication and collaboration between service providers.

Are physical activity interventions in primary care and the community cost-effective? A systematic review of the evidence

This research, undertaken by Sue Garrett et al., was published in the British Journal of General Practice (Volume 61, Number 584, March 2011).

The research indicates that:

  • Most interventions to increase physical activity were cost-effective, especially where direct supervision or instruction was not required.
  • Walking, exercise groups, or brief exercise advice on prescription delivered in person, or by phone or mail appeared to be more cost-effective than supervised gym-based exercise classes or instructor-led walking programmes.
  • Many physical activity interventions had similar cost-utility estimates to funded pharmaceutical interventions and should be considered for funding at a similar level.

Effectiveness of counselling patients on physical activity in general practice

This research, undertaken by Dr Raina Elley et al. and Waikato general practices, was published in the British Medical Journal (Volume 326, 12 April 2003).

The research indicates that:

  • a Green Prescription increases physical activity levels and improves quality of life over 12 months, without evidence of adverse effects
  • prompting practice staff to deliver the intervention will increase its effectiveness
  • for every 10 Green Prescriptions written, one person achieved and sustained 150 minutes of moderate or vigorous leisure activity (using up an additional 1000 kcal) per week. This is associated with a 20–30 percent risk reduction in all cause mortality, compared with sedentary individuals
  • the Green Prescription initiative is sustainable in usual general practice.


Back to top