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 July is National Park and Recreation Month.

National Park and Recreation Month is a time to promote the benefits of healthy, vibrant communities.  It is a time to recognize the importance of parks and recreation in establishing and maintaining quality of life and in contributing to the physical, economic, and environmental well-being of communities.


What is National Park and Recreation Month?

  • Americans have celebrated National Park and Recreation Month during July since 1985.
  • During National Park and Recreation Month, individuals and organizations can promote the benefits of local parks and recreation centers to communities and encourage people to get outside, explore local parks, and enjoy outdoor activities.

Why celebrate parks?

  • To find connections across communities: Considering access to parks is equally important as ensuring the presence of parks and access has the power to connect communities. The concept of Safe Routes to Parks considers the infrastructure required for a safe, connected system between parks, their access points, and surrounding infrastructure.[1]
  • To support the environment: Parks play an important role in environmental health by cleaning water, preserving wildlife, and offering a refuge to humans and animals throughout the seasons.
  • To explore local ecosystems: Parks offer a lot more than meets the eye. Did you know that parks are not just plots of grass? Sports fields, beaches, trails, and many other spaces can be parks offering a host of recreation opportunities. 

Why get active outside?

  • To increase children’s chances of success in school: Kids with access to safe parks and playgrounds are more likely to engage in physical activities — and kids who are physically active do better in school.
  • To contribute to the maintenance of a healthy weight: Local parks and recreation departments increase access to nutritious food options and promote physical activity.
  • To have a more positive outlook: Spending time outdoors reduces stress and improves mental health. Exposure to nature improves creativity, decreases stress hormones, and calms aggression.[2]

How does National Park and Recreation Month support the Partnering4Health project?

As a member of the Partnering4Health community, you are also part of the national movement to prevent chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes – and we want to elevate your voices and share your experiences.  The work of Partnering4Health is essential to improving health outcomes for residents in your city, your county, or your region.  By connecting your project to the national conversation, your work will inspire others to take action.

The Parterning4Health project strives to prevent chronic disease and to reduce health disparities in four focus areas:

  • Increasing access to healthy, nutritious foods and beverages;
  • Increasing opportunities for physical activity;
  • Increasing the number of tobacco-free environments;
  • Increasing clinical-community linkages.

Although not every Partnering4Health coalition is tackling all four focus areas, every Partnering4Health coalition will be able to leverage National Park and Recreation Month.


How do we take action?

Here are a few ways to take action and to make the connection between your work and National Park and Recreation Month:

 Organizations

  • Add information about parks and recreation to newsletters, websites, and blogs.
  • Tweet and post about National Park and Recreation Month.
  • Host a community event in a park where individuals learn more about your organization, get active, and learn about recreation activities. Use the event to gain earned media coverage.
  • Leverage and contribute to existing park and recreation events.

 Individuals

Encourage families to make small changes, like going to a local park after dinner to have the whole family play outdoors together.


How do we keep the conversation going?

Keeping your community members, coalition partners, and local leaders informed throughout National Park and Recreation Month is important to maintaining momentum around the national health observance – and your project.  Please feel free to use or modify any of the social media or newsletter content below.

Twitter

In addition to the sample tweets below, create your own tweets to show how your organization promotes topics related to National Park and Recreation Month. Tailor tweets to the specific audience you are trying to reach.  Consider including local resources and tweeting about events in your area, too.

This year for National Park and Recreation Month, the National Recreation and Park Association is using the hashtag #PlayOnJuly to show community members the importance of play and how much they can discover at their local parks and rec. Read more here.

Sample Tweets for Reaching Community Members

  • Celebrate National Park and Recreation Month by visiting a new park! Find one near you http://bit.ly/1JmlU72 #PlayOnJuly #Partnering4Health
  • Why are parks so important? Learn about the parks from @NRPA_news infographic http://bit.ly/1U6xPhw #PlayOnJuly #Partnering4Health 

Sample Tweets for Reaching Community Leaders and Partners

  • Are you a change agent for healthy communities? Use this toolkit to incorporate public health into parks http://1.usa.gov/1XxrLyf #PlayOnJuly
  • Find new recreation activities in communities across the country http://1.usa.gov/1qXonhM #PlayOnJuly #Partnering4Health
  • Safe Routes to #Parks: It’s not just about the green space – it’s how you get there. http://bit.ly/1RzCxTW #PlayOnJuly #Partnering4Health

Facebook

In addition to the sample posts below, create posts that highlight how your coalition is working to prevent chronic disease.  Tailor posts to the specific audience you are trying to reach. Consider including graphics and/or links to local resources, too.  Adding images to your posts will increase the visibility and draw viewers to your account.

Pro tip: Try to post at least one a day on your Facebook page.  Keeping your page up-to-date lets your community members know you are listening – and active!

 Sample Facebook Posts for Reaching Community Members

  • Parks and recreation have the power to strengthen communities, transform lives and protect the future. #PlayOnJuly #Partnering4Health
  • Celebrate National Park and Recreation Month! Ask parks and recreation centers to offer discounted memberships or free passes in your community. Work together to share free information about recreation and health. #PlayOnJuly #Partnering4Health
  • This National Parks and Recreation Month, motivate others to increase their physical activity by getting active outdoors. #PlayOnJuly #Partnering4Health

Sample Facebook Posts for Reaching Community Leaders and Partners

  • July is National Park and Recreation Month! Be a leader. Encourage partners, community groups, and families to promote and discover parks in the community. http://www.discovertheforest.org/?m=1#map #PlayOnJuly #Partnering4Health
  • This July, host an information event in honor of National Park and Recreation Month. Communities can work with staff from local parks and recreation facilities, organizations working to get people active, and parents who’ve successfully increased their children’s time outdoors. Ask people to share their resources, stories, and tips for success. #PlayOnJuly #Partnering4Health

 

Sample Newsletter Article

[Cut and paste this text into your newsletter, listserv, or media release. Add relevant details and quotes from your organization.]

 [Organization/community name] is celebrating the many health benefits of outdoor parks and recreation activities in honor of National Park and Recreation Month. National Park and Recreation Month highlights the important role local parks and recreation activities play in keeping our community(ies) strong and healthy. During the month of July we encourage people of all ages to get active outdoors!

Children with access to safe parks are more likely to be physically active — and active kids perform better in school. For people of all ages, physical activity can reduce the chances of becoming obese. Plus, spending time outdoors can improve mental health.

To start, check out these activities offered by [organization name] <insert link to national local parks finder, a local parks and recreation department, or community activity listing>. Together we can get our community(ies) to all the great programs that our public parks and recreational facilities offer.

  • [Add details about your activities to promote the month]
  • [Include quote from your organization]

 For more information, contact [insert contact information].


Additional Resources

National Recreation and Park Association

  • The National Recreation and Park Association develops a Parks and Recreation Month Toolkit each year. This toolkit has posters, logos, banners, Facebook and Twitter images, and customizable calendars to share with your community.

Parks, Trails, and Health Workbook

How to Plan a National Health Observance

Community Health Online Resource Center

  • The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention developed the Community Health Online Resource Center, which offers tools including webinars, model policies, toolkits, databases, fact sheets, and other material to support environmental changes.

[1] Safe Routes to Parks, Plan4Health Website. http://www.plan4health.us/tools-and-resources/toolkits/safe-routes-to-parks/

[2] This Is Your Brain On Nature. National Geographic. January 2016 http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2016/01/call-to-wild-text