Play Deserts

Landmark reports and initiatives call for increasing access to, density of, and proximity to parks and recreation facilities as an essential strategy for increasing levels of physical activity among youth. NRPA is collaborating with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to define “play deserts” in an effort to identify where there is a need or opportunity to increase access to physical activity in communities. In the fall of 2012, NRPA and the CDC convened a virtual panel of experts to develop a standard definition for play deserts useful for national surveillance, and recommend a standardized methodology for measuring and mapping play deserts in the U.S. This definition will be published soon upon final review by various experts. The key objectives of this initiative are to:

  • Identify and prioritize key constructs that should be considered in developing a definition for play deserts that is useful for national, state, or community-level data collection;
  • Identify available resources and gaps in resources needed to measure and map play deserts on a national, state, and community level; and
  • Identify key elements to be included in a play desert definition research agenda.

Through these efforts, NRPA intends to fully understand where youth are physically active in their environment and identify where there is a need or opportunity to increase access to places or spaces where youth can be physically active.

For more information on this initiative, please contact Zarnaaz Bashir, Director of Health Initiatives, at