Gwinnett County Parks and Recreation (GCPR) recently joined the National Recreation and Park Association’s Commit to Health Initiative in part because in Gwinnett County, GA more than 170,000 residents are not involved in weekly leisure time. That’s 20 percent of our residents who are not participating in any physical activity.
What do you believe that number is in your service area? Would you like to do something to create positive health impacts for your residents but are not sure where to start?
Incorporating health and wellness initiatives in all areas of park and recreation service is becoming extremely important. Park and recreation agencies have always been thought of as the providers of ‘fun’ and the places where family memories are made. GCPR wants to continue creating those memories while improving our resident’s health at the same time. GCPR believes in the importance of early nutrition education and the encouragement of active lifestyle choices in all of our program participants and staff.
We pledged all 10 of our out-of-school programming sites to Commit to Health to implement the Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (HEPA) Standards.
What’s great is that many of the HEPA Standards have been ongoing implementations of GCPR, and we realized we could do so much more.
As we got more immersed into the Commit to Health Initiative we realized that we do have programs that are doing some of the things we pledged. For example we are doing the following:
- Our out-of-school time participants only have access to clean drinking water and are encouraged to carry refillable bottles at all times.
- Electronic devices are not allowed at day camp.
- Healthy Habit Tips are sent out in our weekly camp newsletters to promote families to make healthy lifestyle choices at home together.
In addition, GCPR had already started solving the puzzle of bringing health and wellness to our service area through our Park Rx Program. GCPR’s Park Rx Program strives to combat childhood and adult chronic diseases, build community partnerships to enhance the health and wellness resources and services available to residents, and increase the amount a nature prescribed to all individuals. One of our Park Rx programs is a collaboration with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA) and their Strong4Life movement educating on the four healthy habits. Strong4Life staff has done trainings with our summer camp staff and camp aides who serve more than 3,000 children between the ages of 5 and 13 in our seven weeks of summer camp each year. With the help of CHOA’s Strong4Life staff, GCPR was able to develop and implement our Wellness Guidelines, Catering Guidelines, and all other health and wellness related procedures into our living Health and Wellness Standards document.
Once we saw how the remaining HEPA Standards are such a great compliment to what we already have in place, it was an easy step to pledge and we are committing to expand our participation to put into practice the remaining standards. GCPR’s 10 out-of-school time program sites that have taken the Commit to Health pledge is a piece of our Park Rx puzzle that will continue to enhance our resident’s physical health, nutrition awareness and mental wellbeing.
At a time when park and recreation professions are already running at 110 percent to serve all of our out-of-school time participants, taking on the Standards may seem like a lot of extra work. But if you take a few minutes to look at your programming it might be that your agency is already making positive health and wellness impacts and not realizing it.
So how many sites will your agency pledge to Commit to Health? What commitments to health and wellness are you developing for your residents and staff? How important do you think offering health and wellness resources and programs to your residents are?
NRPA and Gwinnett County Parks and Recreation want to hear about the efforts your agency is making by committing to health and encourage you to take the pledge! Learn more about Commit to Health in the April issue of Parks & Recreation. Tweet us what you think about Commit to Health and if your agency is pledging using the hashtag #CommitToHealth.
Lindsey Daniels, Tina Fleming and Elizabeth Radley are employees and park and recreation enthusiasts for Gwinnett County Parks and Recreation.