5.5. Continue to strengthen the County’s commitment to improving public health and wellness through public space programming.
In both the survey and in stakeholder and staff interviews, fitness, wellness and nature programs were noted as high priorities.
5.5.1. Enhance fitness, wellness and healthy lifestyle programming and facilities.
5.5.2. Highlight the health and wellness benefits of recreation and nature based programs in informational materials.
5.5.3. Increase and diversify nature based programs to provide educational opportunities for residents to better understand and interact with natural resources.
5.5.4. Collaborate with local healthcare providers to expand the park prescription program.
For patients struggling with chronic disease or other issues that could be ameliorated by physical activity and time spent in a natural environment, doctors can “prescribe” or recommend they spend time being active in a park or other public space. Time spent in natural or green areas has been shown in many studies to improve health outcomes.
5.5.5. Track public space usage indicators over time to determine the positive health impacts of public space system improvements.
Indicators such as percentage of adults who bike or engage in active commuting are available as part of routine national research programs (e.g., the American Community Survey) and are recommended by the Institute of Medicine’s Committee on Evaluating Progress on Obesity Prevention Efforts. Such indicators can also be triangulated with directly observed and validated data on park or trail use. The System for Observing Play and Recreation in Communities (SOPARC) results in counts by key demographic characteristics and levels of physical activity and has been used to measure changes in park usage and physical activity levels accompanying renovations.