Supporting Inclusive Health Through Parks and Recreation

By Maureen Neumann | Posted on June 22, 2021

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Park and recreation professionals are uniquely suited to deliver programming and services that advance the health and well-being of their community members. More and more, park and recreation professionals are serving as stewards of 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.

But how can park and recreation professionals best serve ALL members of the community?

Key actions like adhering to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), equal employment opportunity, and other civil rights laws are great steps, but to truly serve all community members, park and recreation professionals should take more intentional steps to ensure that all voices of the community are heard and valued during both the planning and implementation process of programs, services and built environment enhancements.

By prioritizing inclusive health, park and recreation agencies can truly serve in their role as community wellness hubs.

In partnership with Special Olympics, the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) has developed three key resources specifically detailing ways in which park and recreation professionals can ensure that facilities and programs are inclusive and welcoming to all, especially those with intellectual disabilities.

Inclusive Health Promotion in Local Parks and Recreation Framework

The Inclusive Health Promotion in Local Parks and Recreation Framework is a supplement to the Guidelines for Developing an Inclusion Policy resource that addresses the barriers to inclusive health and what the health implications are for those with intellectual disabilities when solutions to these challenges are not implemented. The framework approaches inclusive health with two foundation principles: equitable access and full participation. Both of these principles are key in ensuring all people have access to and are fully and meaningfully included in health programs and services.

Inclusive Health Video Series

Delivering Inclusive Health Programming and Services During Challenging Times

As trusted gathering places, parks and recreation connects members of the community to the essential programs, services and spaces that are designed to improve their health and quality of life. But how can we do more to best serve all members of our community during times of crisis? This video explores ways to reach all members of the community during unique times to ensure everyone has access to opportunities for health and well-being.

“Nothing About Us, Without Us,” Developing Programs and Services Accessible for All

Special Olympics Minnesota athlete Abby Hirsch shares an introduction to inclusive health; how it impacts individuals with intellectual disabilities; the relationship between inclusive health and local parks and recreation; and the importance of engaging self-advocates with intellectual disabilities and increasing awareness and promotion in communities.

It’s never too late to start working toward inclusive health. Implementing small steps over time is a great way to create an inclusive space that meets the needs of all community members.

Maureen Neumann (she/her) is a Program Manager at NRPA.