Safe and healthy communities don’t happen by accident! Park and recreation programs are an integral part of any community and can assist with attracting and retaining talent, progressive community mobilization, health equity and policy development that all have a lasting impact.
As the 2018 recipient of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF)-National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) Award for Health Equity, the experience was invaluable to not only me, but my community! The award provided the opportunity to share the news with community partners, decision makers and the media on the invaluable work that the City of Wichita Park and Recreation Department does to improve quality of life for all residents. The City of Wichita sent press releases, signed a proclamation and held a celebratory reception that provided a platform to share stories of how park and recreation activities provide high-quality life experiences to the community through the enhancement of world-class amenities and activities. Simply put, the award allowed for earned and owned media generation that not only focused on the actual award, but also the genesis of the award — the work that the recipient does with the City of Wichita Park and Recreation Department.
While many take for granted the work that park and recreation departments do to make the community a better place to live, learn, earn, play and pray, the city of Wichita seized the opportunity of nominating the Health Equity Award recipient and used it as platform to tell of the live-changing work occurring every day because of their efforts. There is an old adage that it isn’t enough to do good things. You have to be SEEN doing good things and this award provided just that. Beyond just local praise and accolades, a Kansas State Senate Tribute was made because of the award and health organizations across the state, including the Kansas Department of Health Environment, were sharing the good news of the award and hence, talking about parks and recreation!
The nomination process was easy and allowed for vetting of ideas of future collaborations that center on health equity efforts in the Greater Wichita area. The award shed light on the work our community is doing and that has been a great tool for growing program awareness. While the award was fantastic and allowed for celebration, the new lens in which the community views park and recreation efforts has been invaluable.
I would STRONGLY encourage other communities to nominate a deserving candidate for this RWJF-NRPA Award for Health Equity! View it as a win-win! It allows for an individual to be celebrated for being the conduit between park and recreation and the community AND it allows for park and recreation initiatives to be highlighted at the local, state and national level. Priceless!
Becky Tuttle has over 20 years of experience working to improve the health of communities. Currently, Becky serves as councilmember for the city of Wichita, Kansas, and on the Kansas Public Health Association board of directors. Previously, Becky served as the Community Development Branch Director for the Greater Wichita YMCA, as well as facilitated the Health & Wellness Coalition of Wichita.