Presentation at the 2014 Active Living Research Annual Conference.
Background and Purpose
Park prescriptions is a movement to strengthen the connection between health care and parks and public lands to improve the physical and mental health among individuals and communities. Park prescriptions offers an alternative to treating or preventing health problems that focuses less on traditional medicine and more on connecting with parks and nature to increase levels of physical activity and reduce levels of stress. The movement has quickly grown from a conceptual phase into a period of rapid implementation with programs being developed across the country. The sustainability of the movement will require that we solve the operational hurdles present in parks and health collaborations, and that we hone and measure the best delivery models currently in practice. We hope you can join us and other leaders representing parks and health to refine on-the-ground tactics for program development, program delivery, measurement, and professional training around park prescriptions. While numerous park prescription programs exist at the local and state levels, little has been done to collect successful strategies and share them with other communities looking to implement similar models. Furthermore, programs that do exist each look different from one another, which raises a concern that agencies are “reinventing the wheel” as opposed to learning and building from successes.
The Institute at the Golden Gate, the National Recreation and Park Association, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are partnering to elevate park prescriptions and related programs from a new idea to a best practice in preventive health. The partners are convening local, state, and national experts to evaluate and refine aspects of current park prescription programs. Program standards created from shared knowledge will increase the quality of new and existing programs as well as support more accurate evaluation of program impacts.
Together we are defining park prescriptions, gaining a better understanding of the national landscape, and identifying standardized measurement and data collection methods needed to determine the effectiveness of park prescriptions.
Conclusions and Implications
By taking best practices from park prescription programs around the country we are aligning our objectives to more easily measure areas of success and improvement for the future. One area we have honed in on for improvement is better including leaders in the communities that we are working in. By including the community in creating the health intervention we can create a more sustainable and effective program that meets the unique needs of the population it serves. Sharing best practices and measurement tools will also help create opportunities for funding new and improved park prescription programs. Creating a strong national collaborative with agreed upon metrics and health intervention steps will also lead to policy.
A convening will take place in October 2013 to bring together leaders representing parks, public health, and health plan providers to refine on-the-ground tactics for program development, program delivery, measurement, and professional training. This convening will produce national standards based on qualitative and quantitative evidence from programs across the country, elevating the initiative from a new idea to a best practice in preventive health. This work will result in a nationally created toolkit with relevant training's and collateral so parks and health care providers across the country can more easily implement an effective and sustainable park prescriptions model.
Support / Funding Source
Kaiser Permanente; National Recreation and Park Association.