Parks and recreation is vital to community health and well-being.

We must ensure that all people have access to these spaces, programs and services that remain essential to community vitality and serve as a key factor in advancing health equity, improving individual and community-level health outcomes, and enhancing quality of life.

NRPA believes that park and recreation professionals are key to a fully integrated public health system and play a vital role in meeting the evolving health needs of their communities. They are uniquely positioned to create, in partnership with the community, public health leaders and other local organizations, upstream solutions that catalyze and transform their systems into holistic and people-centered community wellness hubs. In serving as community wellness hubs, parks and recreation connects community members to comprehensive programs, services and spaces that dismantle systemic barriers to health, especially for people of color and low-income communities, while investing in efforts that support and advance health and well-being holistically. 

At the core of this work is equity. By centering health equity and embedding it into all that we do, we can ensure that all people — regardless of race, class, ability or identity — have a fair and just opportunity to achieve positive health and well-being outcomes.

NRPA commits to championing and evaluating local solutions, building strategic partnerships, developing resources and best practices, advancing policy change, enhancing professional development opportunities and lifting up impactful stories, to support this transformation into Community Wellness Hubs and help park and recreation professionals realize their full potential as public health agents.

  

Health and Wellness in Parks and Recreation

Every day, in communities across the country, the people of parks and recreation are making their communities better places to live, work and play. We are building a nation-wide movement of support for their critical work and want you to join us.

 

Elevating Health Equity Through Parks and Recreation: A Framework for Action

This interactive framework guides local park and recreation professionals in applying an equity lens to system-wide operations, programs and services.

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Group of children in matching camp expo shirts

Parks and Recreation: Advancing Community Health and Well-Being

To meet the emerging health and wellness needs of the public, parks and recreation — in partnership with community members — is evolving into Community Wellness Hubs. The Parks and Recreation: Advancing Community Health and Well-Being report focuses on how park and recreation professionals are tackling the ever-expanding health and wellness needs of their communities, including programming, education, innovations and health equity.

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Woman in a park creates a heart symbol with her hands

Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Language Guide

This resource explains the harmful impact of stigmatizing language, provides key guidelines for how to talk about mental illness and substance use disorder with empathy, and provides a chart of language substitutions to replace common stigmatizing terms with more respectful language.

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An adult walks a dog down a park pathRemote Physical Activity Programs for Older Adults: A Guide to Planning and Implementation

NRPA has been supporting the expansion and implementation of Arthritis Appropriate Evidence-Based Interventions (AAEBIs) through local park and recreation agencies. This resource summarizes lessons learned and best practices from nine park and recreation agencies that took part in a remote delivery pilot of four different AAEBIs in 2021.

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PA child points to a watermelonarks, Recreation and Healthcare: Partnerships to Advance Community Wellness Hubs

Park and recreation agencies have a unique opportunity to contribute to local food and nutrition systems by serving as Community Wellness Hubs. NRPA's Parks, Recreation and Healthcare: Partnerships to Advance Community Wellness Hubs outlines opportunities for park and recreation and healthcare organizations to partner to support food access and reduce barriers to the social determinants of health across communities. The resource guides you through five key building blocks when creating partnerships including preparing to partner; coordinating the partnership; developing an implementation plan; assessing the impact of the partnership; and identifying how to sustain the partnership.

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Case Study Series: Launching Community Nutrition Hubs During a Pandemic

Park and recreation agencies are uniquely suited to serve as community nutrition hubs, connecting all members of the community to programs and services that improve health outcomes. The Launching Community Nutrition Hubs During a Pandemic video explores how park and recreation professionals from three agencies began the planning process to implement a hub model in their communities to address food security and nutrition literacy for their community members during a critical time — the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Community Wellness Hubs

Local park and recreation agencies are perfectly suited to serve as community wellness hubs by leveraging their role as 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. Community wellness hubs meet the unique needs of their communities through a variety of ways including access to healthy foods, physical activity, social connections and connection to nature.


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A Comprehensive Response to the Substance Use Crisis for Park and Recreation Professionals

This report explores response strategies and recommendations for park and recreation professionals. It highlights a variety of tactics and levels of response that focus on prevention, operations and maintenance, public safety, community education, partnership building, staff training and development, and more.


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Parks and Recreation and Farmers Markets: A Perfect Pair

Parks and recreation and farmers markets are the perfect pair! Explore resources and story map describing how park and recreation professionals can integrate farmers markets and community supported agriculture (CSA) programs into their community offerings.


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Making the Case: Parks and Health Toolkit

Making the Case: Parks and Health is an easy-to-use resource to help park and recreation leaders make the objective case to elected officials that parks are a critical part of the community’s public health infrastructure. The resource includes data-rich fact sheets, presentations, infographics and other resources that will help you get support for your agency.

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Commit To HealthCommit to Health

NRPA’s Commit to Health campaign supports the goals of improving healthy food access, reducing obesity and chronic disease, and fostering social supports at local park and recreation sites. Park and recreation sites can join the national movement to support community health and wellness.

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Healthy Aging in ParksHealthy Aging in Parks

Healthy Aging in Parks is NRPA’s campaign to improve and maintain the health and well-being of older adults by increasing opportunities for physical activity through parks and recreation.

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Mentoring in Parks and Rec

Through the Mentoring in Parks and Rec, NRPA supports agencies in their efforts to build effective and evidence-based mentorship programs that connect youth with caring and compassionate mentors while strengthening connections across community.

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NRPA Response to COVID-19

NRPA continues to monitor developments as well as federal, state and local responses to coronavirus (COVID-19). We are following the Centers for Disease Control employer response recommendations for our offices, as well as NRPA-sponsored events.

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Learn more about NRPA’s other initiatives aimed at improving health and well-being through parks and recreation.

 

Curated Content: Advancing Community Health and Wellness

NRPA and our trusted partners aim to continually share up-to-date information through Open Space blog and Parks & Recreation magazine.

News Stories

6.29.22Parks and Recreation Update

Parks and rec helps feed kids for free when school's out

6.29.22Public Communication and Outreach

Park and Recreation Month offers variety of activities

6.29.22Public Communication and Outreach

Iowa city pool offers pre-swim story time for kids