Collaborating for Health

April 1, 2014, Feature, by Jo Burns, MS, CTRS

Offering physical and mental wellness alike, yoga at Prairie Sky Park in Lone Tree, Colorado, embodies CPRA’s mission to connect residents with their majestic natural surroundings through recreation. Colorado is often thought of as the “healthy state,” and for good reason. We have beautiful mountains, rivers, lakes, parks, trails and open space to do just about every recreation and fitness activity you can think of, from skiing to lake boarding, hiking to mountain biking. The weather does not keep people inside here. Coloradans embrace Mother Nature’s diversity and the opportunity to go outside and play in it.

More than 90 percent of adult residents in Colorado engage in outdoor recreation activities, according to the Economic Contributions of Outdoor Recreation in Colorado 2013 study. Other recent research also shows living close to parks and other recreation facilities is consistently related to higher physical activity levels for both adults and youth. Denver alone boasts 205 parks within its city limits. Colorado is working hard to increase the number of parks and open spaces per resident and to reduce the travel time required to get to great places to be outdoors, get fit or just have fun.

Colorado Parks and Recreation Association (CPRA) is doing its part to engage our members, and our state, to stay healthy and fit as well as embrace the outdoors. From promoting programs from within, like our CancerFit  and Cancer Fitness Institute, to engaging in collaborative partnerships with like-minded organizations to promote healthy outdoor lifestyles, we are reaching out across disciplines to hammer home our tagline, “Life is Better with Parks & Recreation.”

Programs You Can Use

CancerFit is a turn-key health and fitness program for cancer patients and survivors. It combines the best of individual fitness assessments and personalized exercise prescriptions with the power of an “on-the-move” support group. CancerFit  programs are provided in 14 municipal recreation- and health-related centers across Colorado. Fitness and health professionals attend the Cancer Fitness Institute offered by CPRA to become trained in how to work with cancer survivors and how to administer the CancerFit  program in their own agency.  Filling this niche market, the CancerFit  program has served more than 250 cancer survivors and can boast a 75 percent retention rate of members who continue their fitness program within the recreation center for years to come. Since January 2011, 56 professionals and 24 undergraduate students have completed the Cancer Fitness Institute course.

CPRA joined the Get Outdoors Colorado (GOC) collaborative two years ago, coming together with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the U.S. Forest Service and more than 40 other nonprofit, for profit and governmental agencies with the primary focus of improving the health and wellness of Colorado families by getting them outdoors. The GOC collaborative has two main components, National Get Outdoors Day and Get Outdoors Colorado. The daylong National Get Outdoors Day celebration takes place at Denver’s City Park and features multiple villages promoting practically every way you can engage in the outdoors. Attracting more than 10,000 visitors in 2013, this event includes hands-on opportunities for kids and families of all abilities to try activities like fishing, canoeing, rock climbing and nature exploration. Mark your calendars now — National Get Outdoors Day is June 14. No matter where you live, be sure to get outdoors!

In February 2013, we launched Get Outdoors Colorado, which is our online portal designed to connect individuals and families with everything there is to do outdoors in Colorado. The GOC website has engaged more than 175 partners providing outdoor opportunities from all over the state, including yoga in the park, snowshoeing through a uranium mine, sunrise hikes, bee keeping and skiing with a naturalist. Access to the website is free for both adventure seekers and providing partners. There is an “Outdoor Kids” page with fun activities to do on the website and fun ways to engage these skills outdoors. And yes, we’ll even remind you to get outdoors if you stay on our site too long!  

Reaching Across Disciplines

CPRA has taken an active role in reaching out across disciplines to engage in collaboration with professionals from public health, public schools and nonprofit health promotion organizations. In the spring of 2013, we joined the campaign to highlight Childhood Obesity Awareness Month (COAM) by creating a webpage full of resources for our members and partners to access. We partnered with more than 12 organizations that promote health and wellness throughout the state, as well as with our own members who were participating in COAM during their own special events. While childhood obesity should be on our minds every month, take special note of the programs and services you offer each September to bring special attention to this important issue.

Thanks to the ingenuity of one of our members already working in a multidisciplinary team, CPRA is bringing in a national public health speaker, working with the Colorado Public Health Association and collaborating to create a face-to-face opportunity to share how we are all working to reduce childhood obesity in Colorado. This important preconference workshop with parks and recreation, public health, school health and nonprofit health professionals is set for September 2014 in Steamboat Springs, prior to our annual state conference, and we look forward to the important conversations that will take place. 

A Statewide Message

As part of CPRA’s Vision Plan, we created a statewide campaign to promote how “Life is Better with Parks & Recreation!” Using four main messages, we hope to inspire CPRA members, as well as the general public, to know and understand how vital parks and recreation is to our environment, economy, health and quality of life.  Colorado parks and recreation creates healthy lifestyles, preserves and conserves environmental resources, fosters economic vitality, builds community and enhances quality of life. We have created a webpage and numerous resources for our members to use in telling their stories and are working diligently to make this a data and research resource our members will use into the future. 

Through the programs we offer, by reaching across disciplines and by creating a statewide message, we are ensuring Colorado retains its reputation as the “healthy state.” And by fostering the development of dedicated and passionate park and recreation professionals throughout Colorado, CPRA is doing its part. One of us is not as strong as all of us. 

Jo Burns, MS, CTRS, is the Communications and Office Genius for the Colorado Parks and Recreation Association.