Seven Degrees to Healthy Communities

June 27, 2024, Feature, by Maureen Neumann

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Exploring the strategic impact of the NRPA Annual Conference across the seven dimensions of health and well-being

Every day, park and recreation professionals support community health and well-being across seven unique but interconnected dimensions. The programs, services and opportunities park and recreation professionals provide ensure that communities achieve optimal well-being.

At the 2023 NRPA Annual Conference Member Booth, attendees were invited to share how they support the seven dimensions of well-being. By compiling this feedback, we can see the unique ways park and recreation professionals are embracing the dimensions and supporting health and well-being.

Cultural: Members engage with the cultural dimension of well-being through offering activities like intergenerational programming. They also shared infrastructure improvements, such as incorporating culturally significant art.

Economic: Members engage with the economic aspect of well-being through programs like financial literacy classes. Other members shared the economic impact of building playgrounds, parks, community centers and other recreational buildings.

Emotional: For the emotional aspect of well-being, members shared about community programs that address mental health. For example, one community ran a gun violence prevention program. Other programs included mindfulness and yoga opportunities and health and wellness programs for employees. Members also shared their efforts to implement trauma-informed practices in their work.

Environmental: Parks and recreation addresses the environmental dimension by involving community members in clean-up days, community gardening, programming for youth outdoors, and by increasing park access. Members also shared efforts to combat climate change by increasing tree canopy through planting days, removing invasive plants, navigating storm and floodwater mitigation, protecting watersheds, and distributing native seeds.

Intellectual: Members shared ways their agencies were touching on the intellectual dimension of well-being through community programming, including financial literacy courses and classes for parents to improve parenting skills. In addition, members shared infrastructure improvements, such as creating a shared location for libraries and recreation centers.

Physical: Members work with public health agencies; implement infrastructure improvements, like exercise equipment in parks; and provide programming, like mindfulness, yoga, walking, and sports and dance for all ages.

Social: Members touched on the social dimension of well-being more than any other. Activities focused on inclusion and access. Members also touched on programming for parents and children, military members, and individuals identifying as LGBTQIA+. In addition, members offer free community events and socials to encourage connection.

Equity: Equity sits at the center of the seven dimensions of well-being, and many members shared ways their agencies prioritize equity in their programming, infrastructure improvements and hiring.

The ways park and recreation professionals advance health and well-being across the seven dimensions is paramount to NRPA’s new strategic planning vision. The 2024 NRPA Annual Conference in Atlanta, October 8-10, will highlight and announce more exciting work around the seven dimensions of well-being.

Maureen Neumann is Senior Program Manager at NRPA.