Parks and recreation is vital to community health and well-being. Access to these spaces, programs and services remains essential to community vitality and is a key factor in advancing health equity, improving individual and community-level health outcomes, and enhancing quality of life. Park and recreation professionals, in partnership with community members, are uniquely suited to serve as stewards of Community Wellness Hubs.
Community Wellness Hubs are essential to health and well-being — they address systems-level change by removing barriers and bridging gaps to help people access vital health and social resources, ensuring that all people can thrive. Policy, environmental and behavior change strategies are some of the key systems change strategies park and recreation professionals can utilize to advance health equity and improve health outcomes.
- Policy change strategies include instituting new rules, regulations or resolutions at an organizational level (system-wide, site-wide, program-wide, etc.).
- Environmental change strategies include changes made to the physical environment and resources and services available within the environment.
- Behavior change strategies focus on changing attitudes, self-efficacy or confidence, relationships and norms. To be most effective, all strategies and approaches should be ongoing, instituted community-wide, and focus on long-term impact and sustainability.
Community Wellness Hubs are designed to advance health and wellness across seven interdependent and interconnected dimensions of well-being — cultural, economic, emotional, environmental, intellectual, physical and social.
Recently, we asked a cohort of park and recreation professionals how they are implementing these strategies in alignment with each of these dimensions to function as a Community Wellness Hub. Here are just a few ways systems-level change is happening:
- Behavior: Identifying ambassadors and building relationships with community members from diverse and minority backgrounds
- Environmental: Hosting a food pantry at the community center with multilingual signage and volunteers, and highlighting culturally relevant foods
- Policy: Partnering with bus program to provide bus passes and assist with transportation and access to programs and food sites
- Environmental: Creating jobs to support food access, including mobile delivery drivers, food service staff, and SNAP support specialist
- Behavior: Creating regulation stations in before and after-school care programs to support youth with regulating their emotional state
- Behavior: Hosting speaker presentations and community discussions on mental health topics
- Environmental: Installing community gardens to serve as a food access point and support climate resiliency
- Environmental: Gardens and demonstration kitchens built for community members to learn and share ways to grow and prepare nutritious foods.
- Behavior: Offering cooking classes to support nutrition literacy
- Policy: Partnering with health insurance to be an approved provider for adult fitness classes
- Environmental: Offering physical screening and wellness checks for youth and adults at monthly wellness fairs in local school.
- Behavior: Nutrition and physical activity classes for community members
- Environmental: Free family meals for residents to gather and enjoy a meal together
- Behavior: Recognizing gender identity in Community Wellness Hub programs
How are you supporting systems change within your agency? If you are attending the 2023 NRPA Annual Conference in Dallas this October 10-12, be sure to visit the NRPA Member Area (Booth #430) to contribute to our live seven dimensions of well-being activity!
Maureen Neumann (she/her) is a senior program manager at NRPA.