Healthy Communities

NRPA supports communities across the country as they plan for and implement changes to policies and the environment that promote healthier lifestyles. Over the past five years, NRPA has worked with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to support public health efforts that reduce tobacco use and reduce obesity through increased physical activity and improved nutrition.

Policy initiatives (e.g., healthy vending and concessions policies; smoke-free policies in parks) and changes to the built environment (e.g., improved active transport infrastructure and access to trail systems) are critical to helping advance the nation’s efforts to prevent chronic diseases and related risk factors. The role that parks play in health promotion and disease prevention is even more significant given the health problems we face today. Some powerful examples include:

  • Healthy vending machines provided at 26 park sites in Miami-Dade County, Florida, to ensure parks users had access to nutritious snacks and beverages;
  • An 8.7 mile path constructed in Kauai, Hawaii, to provide open-access, alternative transportation for residents and tourists;
  • A city-wide tobacco ban in Longview, Washington, that specifies that 11 of the city’s 17 parks are 100% tobacco-free, with the other 6 parks banning tobacco use in all areas except for designated smoking areas; and
  • “Safe park zones” developed in communities that offer special traffic protections while passing parks and recreation facilities to make areas safely accessible.

For more information, please visit or

Available Resources


Issue Briefs

Released November 2012, these six issue briefs are a unique resource to park and recreation professionals working towards creating healthy, vibrant communities.

Dialogue Guides

Released January 2013, these guides are intended to encourage park and recreation agencies to play a leadership role in bringing together a diverse group of people and organizations that are interested in or are working towards creating healthy, vibrant communities. They include convener tips, sample agendas, and resources which allow park and recreation agencies the ease and accessibility to begin first steps of establishing neighborhood and community conversations.


NRPA’s Healthy Communities webinar series focus on making policy and environmental change to build healthier communities. Subject-matter experts present success stories and discuss the lessons they learned from their efforts to decrease incidences of chronic diseases. Recent topics include:

  • Increasing Physical Activity through Safe Routes to School
  • Increasing Access to Healthy Food
  • Moving Paths in the Right Direction
  • Healthy Worksites, Happy Employees
  • Partnering Towards Healthy Communities
  • Park Prescriptions
  • Social Media and Parks
  • Safety and Access to Parks

Access archived webinars here.

Online Training Courses

NRPA developed seven courses that teach the basic concepts of implementing a coordinated chronic disease prevention and health promotion plan through policy, systems, and environmental change strategies to the broader park and recreation community. Topics include:

  • Policy, systems, and environmental change;
  • Cultural competency;
  • Health disparities across demographics;
  • Comprehensive planning for healthy communities;
  • Understanding health, wellness, and livability in your community;
  • Marketing the role of parks and recreation in community health; and
  • Assessments and evaluation.

Access the Online Training Courses here.

For more information, please contact Zarnaaz Bashir ( or Kellie May (