Park and recreation agencies serve as Community Wellness Hubs, trusted gathering places that connect every member of the community to essential programs, services and spaces that advance health equity, improve health outcomes and enhance quality of life. As a cornerstone of communities, parks and recreation encourage individuals and communities to be active, healthier, and connect with nature and each other.
Parks and recreation also play a crucial role in addressing barriers to the social determinants of health, which are defined by the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion as the “conditions in the environments where people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks.” The social determinants of health include factors like access to healthcare, healthy and affordable food, education, jobs, safe and healthy environments to be physically active, green space, etc. and they have the greatest influence on our health and socio-economic outcomes. Social determinants of health are some of the leading factors that influence health inequities and health disparities. When practices, policies, power structures and resources with sectors and systems, including parks and recreation, benefit some people and not others, it creates and perpetuates health and socio-economic inequities.
If there’s one thing park and recreation professionals know, it’s that through partnerships with other community stakeholders, agencies can play a much greater role in influencing the health and well-being of their communities and advancing health equity. One of the types of partnerships that offer mutual benefits and can have some of the greatest impacts on community health and well-being are partnerships between healthcare organizations and community-based organizations (such as parks and recreation).
In the 2021 Parks and Recreation: Advancing Community Health and Well-Being survey report, 51 percent of park and recreation agencies are already partnering with healthcare providers in their communities. Healthcare and community-based organizations share the common goal of improving the health of the communities served and many healthcare organizations are broadening their focus and leveraging their resources to address barriers to the social determinants of health. Agencies can partner with healthcare organizations to improve the environments in which people live, learn, work and play.
The help support park and recreation professionals build and strengthen partnerships with healthcare organizations, NRPA has released several new resources:
Parks, Recreation and Healthcare: Partnerships to Advance Community Wellness Hubs
This new resource outlines opportunities for park and recreation and healthcare organizations to partner to support food access across communities. The resource guides you through five key building blocks when creating partnerships:
- Preparing to partner
- Coordinating the partnership
- Developing an implementation plan
- Assessing the impact of the partnership
- Identifying how to sustain the partnership
Electronic Health Record Referral Pathways: A Guide to Development, Relationship Building and Implementation
This guide provides resources for developing and maintaining healthcare partnerships as well as tools to create referral pathways from healthcare organizations to park and recreation-based programs, services and spaces (e.g. healthcare providers directly referring patients to parks and recreation).
Financing Health and Wellness Programs: A Toolkit for Park and Recreation Professionals
With support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), NRPA has developed this toolkit to help parks and recreation secure funding for arthritis-appropriate evidence-based interventions and other physical activity and health education programs offered through parks and recreation.
Partnerships are critical to advancing health equity and improving the social determinants of health for all people. Explore these resources to build and strengthen partnerships with local healthcare providers and healthcare organizations.
Are you partnering with a healthcare organization already? Share your story with us! Contact me to connect about your partnership.
Allison Colman (she/her) is NRPA’s Director of Health.