The term “health equity” has quickly gone from a buzzword to a nationwide initiative across our country within the last few years. Under the health equity concept, everyone has the opportunity to be as healthy as possible and no one is disadvantaged from achieving this due to social position, ability, or other circumstances. Often, a lack of resources can hinder a person from living a healthy lifestyle. Barriers to achieving a healthy lifestyle vary and can include things like the cost of a gym membership or a lack of access to free resources due to transportation challenges.
As communities work to eliminate barriers and make resources more equitable across all socioeconomic regions, Quality Parks are emerging as an initiative to move our communities in the right direction toward healthier outcomes.
According to this article from NRPA, “A growing body of scientific evidence suggests that access to parks and green space may alleviate health disparities observed in vulnerable populations. For example, access to parks can help lower the risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, diminished mental health, and other health-related concerns.” Unfortunately, there are many communities in our country that don’t have access to parks. For example, according to The American Society of Landscape Architects, close to 4 million people in Los Angeles are too far away from a park to use one easily, conveniently, or frequently.
In this blog, we’ve compiled a list of ideas to help you plan and design a park that is transformational to the health of your community.
Accessibility for All – Ensure that your park is ADA accessible to provide easy access via walking, biking, transit, and for those using wheelchairs. Utilize helpful directional signage to make it easier for the visually impaired to find their way around.
Promote Active Living – Consider creating an outdoor fitness park adjacent to a playground to make it easy for parents to exercise while their children are playing. Include trails and pathways to encourage walking, running, and biking to view various parts of the park.
Engaging Landscape & Gardens – Studies have shown that natural environments help contribute to human health. Consider the trees, flowers, and gardens that will inspire guests to keep coming back to your park with every season. Consider a community vegetable & fruit garden that will encourage physical activity through shared maintenance as well as healthy food options for families.
Interactive & Social Features – In this age of technology, we need more human connection within our communities. By providing community parks with engaging activities, you can encourage people to be more social which will have a direct impact on overall mental health. Consider engaging your local community for ideas on the types of activities and features they would enjoy, such as a basketball court, a rock-climbing wall, or an open space for group yoga classes.
No matter where you are in the country, we can all take a stand to be more proactive in understanding the important role that parks and playgrounds play in promoting overall health and wellness.