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On the World Health Organization’s World Health Day — April 7, 2021 — NRPA joined the call to build a fairer, healthier world through the release of a new resource. Now is a critical time for park and recreation professionals to create more equitable access to high-quality spaces, programs and services, where all people can experience the physical, environmental, mental and social health benefits that parks and recreation uniquely provides.
Authored by Epic Health Solutions, Elevating Health Equity Through Parks and Recreation: A Framework for Action is designed to help park and recreation professionals intentionally advance health equity by applying a racial equity lens when designing, implementing and evaluating programs and services, and when developing infrastructure, maintenance and operations plans.
When health inequities are eliminated, the health of individuals and their communities — especially those living in Black, Latino, Indigenous and Asian American/Pacific Islander communities — improves. Many park and recreation agencies have made progress toward this goal, but there is still much work to be done to eliminate and prevent health inequities.
Using this interactive framework as both a personal and agency-wide guide, the goal of this tool is to spark conversations that engage individuals and organizations in deep reflection and a process of ongoing learning.
The framework provides a foundation of guiding principles that park and recreation professionals can build upon to create more equitable spaces, programs and services to advance community health and well-being.
The guiding principles are:
- Center Health Equity – When health equity is centered in strategies, initiatives and policies, the full power of parks and recreation will be realized.
- Use Parks and Recreation as a Pathway to Advance Health Equity – When park and recreation professionals create just and equitable access to programs, services and activities, they can promote better health outcomes.
- Reimagine Inclusion – In park settings, inclusion must go beyond ability and access and should include a focus on who, how and where people are included.
- Focus on Learning – This work requires a constant examination of self and systems, connection with individuals who are not like you, and a willingness to share failures and successes.
- Respect the Environment – Parks and recreation can be a catalyst for creating, maintaining and activating spaces that are not only resilient and regenerative, but also celebrations of diversity.
The framework is divided into four parts with corresponding learning objectives, worksheets and action items:
- Self-Assessment — Questions to Challenge Individual Thinking: Take time and consider your thoughts, beliefs, actions and experiences, and the ways those impact your work.
- Agency Assessment — Assessing Agency Culture: Think about your agency’s standard operations and determine whether the current ways of operating lead to the most equitable impact for the community; and if not, imagine new, more equitable ways of operating.
- Health Equity Integration — Steps to Center Equity and Change Systems: Create an action map that will guide your agency as it moves from its current state to its ideal state.
- Committing to the Call — Action Planning to Advance Health Equity: Make a plan of action to build upon current efforts and to advance equity within agency culture and agency programs, services and facilities.
When we achieve equity, everyone benefits, but achieving equity requires action. NRPA recognizes that even the smallest step in the fight toward equity and justice is never wasted, and we hope you take what you need from this guide to start your own journey toward health equity.
Learn more at nrpa.org/equity.