Healthy Choices for Life

June 5, 2018, Department, by Gina Mullins-Cohen

Gina Mullins Cohen 410

As park and recreational professionals, your mission is to promote healthy and active living at every age. You do this by offering potential participants a wide variety of athletic and leisurely programming year-round, with the hope that community members will make the right choices that will lead to a healthy and happy life. Yet, while the road is paved with good intentions, we realize others need more from us — compassion and understanding.

Such is the case detailed in this month’s cover story, “The Opioid Crisis,” on page 42, by writer Vitisia Paynich. This narrative examines the critical nature of the widespread opioid epidemic, as well as the effects substance abuse is having on today’s youth. Paynich goes one-on-one with park and recreation experts to find out how their agencies are promoting drug-abuse awareness and prevention through community partnerships, and how they are helping children to cope with the trauma caused by their loved one’s addiction.

Rachel Banner, NRPA’s health program manager, offers insight to the lessons gleaned from the eight communities piloting the Safe Routes to Park Action Framework in the article, “Safe Routes to Park,” on page 48. With support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), NRPA and the Safe Routes to School National Partnership teamed up to offer local governments best practices to ensure parks remain safe, accessible and welcoming to community members. What’s more, Banner shares some of the themes that materialized across these selected community test sites.

Also, in this issue, on page 54, NRPA Program Manager Allison Colman shines a light on one of the association’s most significant and life-changing initiatives, Commit to Health, in the article, “Parks and Recreation: A Champion for Youth Health.” As an example, kids who attend programming at Commit to Health sites experience a 20 percent increase in healthy-living knowledge, increasing fruit and vegetable consumption, and reducing the amount of processed foods and sugary beverages consumed. Additional data shows that 85 million healthy meals have been served to 4.5 million youth in more than 300 communities across the country.

As you and your park and recreation staff prepare for another active and, no doubt, eventful summer season, it’s important to remind yourselves that you too need a breather — even if it’s just for a few precious minutes to refresh and reboot. After all, you can’t preach what you fail to practice.

Gina Mullins-Cohen is NRPA's Vice President of Marketing, Communications and Publishing, and Editorial Director