Park Prescriptions movement grows to link park agencies and health field

 In Environment, Health, Public Lands

Crissy Field and the Golden Gate Bridge, Photo by Christine Sculati

On KQED’ Forum this morning, the National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis said he is hoping for a federal budget resolution by Friday to avoid a government shutdown.

After all, a shutdown would mean closing 400 national park sites across the country – from Point Reyes National Seashore Point Reyes National Seashore from Mt. Vision Road, photo by Christine Sculatito the Statue of Liberty. He said the last government shutdown closed national parks for 17 days during the winter holidays between 1995 and 1996. Visitors were turned away.

Jarvis told Michael Krasny that a national park closure at this time would be nightmarish given all the planning the park service has been doing to prepare for National Park Week (April 16-24), Earth Day events and a big push to promote “Healthy Parks Healthy People.”

Healthy Parks Healthy People is a new nationwide initiative pioneered in the San Francisco Bay Area by the Institute at the Golden Gate, a program of the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy. Park leaders aim to strengthen connections between parks, public lands and human health and promote “Park Prescriptions.” Yesterday the National Park Service wrapped up the initiative’s first conference at Fort Baker in the Golden Gate National Parks. The event gathered professionals from the public and private arenas – from parks and open space to healthcare.

Take a hike and call me in the morning.

Public-private health initiatives are not entirely new to the Bay Area.

The Institute at the Golden Gate has been working on the parks and health issue for several years and has produced two publications:

The East Bay Regional Parks District Black Diamond Mines Open Space Preserve, photo by Christine Sculatihas been partnering with Kaiser Permanente for the last seven years to organize the “Trails Challenge” to promote a healthful and physically active lifestyle in the outdoors. The district boasts 65 parks, over 98,000 acres and 1,100 miles of trails in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. With more land acquisitions they hope to protect more land.

The scientific community has documented the health benefits of time spent in nature and exercising in the outdoors for several years. And with the establishment of Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign to reduce obesity, momentum is building to increase physical activity. Today, U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimates that more than 40 percent of the U.S. population is sedentary.

Health and our parks is also the theme of the Bay Area Open Space Council’s 2011 Open Space Conference on May 12 in San Francisco’s Presidio. I’m going. Are you?

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