Fortunately, in recent years health and wellness awareness and initiatives have begun to take center stage in communities throughout our nation. We, in the park and recreation profession, are fortunate to have within our inventories and reach an incredible number of resources to provide opportunities for health and wellness at any age. This greater access to resources means we also have a larger responsibility to emphasize the impacts of healthy choices related to our Health and Wellness Pillar as if lives depend up on it — because they do!
We all know about the many studies that prove, time and time again, the value that active play, exercise and outdoor activities have in curbing a long list of chronic diseases that impair both physical and mental health. In addition, we have proof that parks and recreation activities and facilities build connections among residents, help strengthen the economy of a community, and ultimately lead to a better quality of life for all. As we continue to nurture and develop future generations, we must understand the opportunities and challenges of health issues facing our youth. Throughout the nation young people are facing an obesity crisis. Today we are seeing too many diseases that were, not too long ago, rarely linked to young people (e.g. high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.). It appears to me that today’s rapid advancements, whether in the field of technology or environmental changes in our communities, are inherently linked to and encourage sedentary lifestyles.
So, what can we do to advocate for change? How do we, as leisure professionals, become agitators for advancing an enhanced, healthier direction for future generations?
- Tell better stories about the concrete benefits in the relationship among health, wellness and leisure activities.
- Be creative in programming and providing outdoor recreation areas specifically designed to promote healthy outcomes.
- Work toward making sure all communities have equal access to services based on established national standards.
Through the concerted efforts outlined above, we can be the difference makers within our respective communities. And, when we are asked the question, “What is your profession,” we can respond with a resounding, “We save lives for a living.”
Detrick L. Stanford, CPRP, is the Chair of NRPA's Board of Directors.