Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Park and Recreation Agencies Partner for Health: NRPA Joins the Front Line to Combat Obesity

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Park and Recreation Agencies Partner for Health: NRPA Joins the Front Line to Combat Obesity

Article excerpt

Take a look at Americans these days. Obesity has reached an all-time high in this country, with nearly one-third of adults lumped into this category. Another third are considered to be overweight. With TV, DVDs, video games, Web logs and chat rooms, car-dependent cities and the endless time crunch of life, the motivation to move our bodies continues to dwindle.

In our country today, we're ringing up a tab totaling $117 billion in direct and indirect costs resulting from the obese and the overweight. An estimated 365,000 deaths annually are associated with chronic conditions that could be prevented.

This epidemic does not discriminate by gender, age, race, ethnicity or education level, and the number affected steadily accelerates with each passing year. As a result, we are left with a population on a collision course with the health care system to be treated for consequences such as diabetes, heart disease stroke, hypertension, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, depression and more.

This is a battle we must fight, community by community. In 2004, the International City/County Management Association conducted a survey of city managers to ask what public agency would be most critical to addressing the obesity crisis. City/county managers ranked parks and recreation highest among all public agencies at 88 percent. In addition, 65 percent of those city/county managers who responded believe that it is "very important" for local government to encourage and provide opportunities for physical activity for its residents.

Because NRPA is comprised of park and recreation agencies that are on the front lines of fighting this health crisis, the association launched a grassroots effort this year to combat obesity through active, healthy lifestyles. NRPA hosted health summits in cities across the country to rally park and recreation professionals, health care specialists, community leaders and others in the endeavor.

The "Step Up to Health Summits" have resonated nationwide as a significant step by NRPA to partner with local park and recreation agencies, as well as allied organizations to assume a leadership role in promoting healthy lifestyles and livable communities. NRPA, in partnership with the National Football League (NFL) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has been on an 18-city tour to convene community and professional leaders to address obesity by engaging more individuals, families and communities in active recreation and regular use of America's public parks.

The community mobilization model presented at the Step Up to Health Summits has been developed through a three-year study conducted in 56 communities nationwide. …

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