New online resource helps communities get active in parks for good health

An innovative new online resource was launched today at the IUCN World Parks Congress 2014, to guide communities to get active in parks to improve their health and wellbeing.

Research shows that getting people out in nature is good for both their health and wellbeing. With heart disease, diabetes, obesity and other non-communicable diseases on the rise in both Australia and globally, the importance of connecting with nature has never been more important.

Active in Parks is a concept based on the Healthy Parks Healthy People approach pioneered by Parks Victoria. It works to support Australians to increase physical activity while connecting with their community and nature.

The Active in Parks online resource provides practical guidance and useful resources for both health organisations and parks agencies on how to implement Active in Parks programs in their local areas and regions, together with a national database of outdoor activities across Australia.

The resource includes specific case studies from programs successfully run in Australia, including GP Green Referrals, Bush Groups, New Migrants program and the Heart Foundation Walking Park Walks program, amongst others.

“The purpose of the website is to enable the Active in Parks model to be easily replicated in other towns and cities across Australia to achieve beneficial health and social outcomes for individuals and communities that really need it,” said Sara Mirabella, Executive Director with the People and Parks Foundation, Australia.

“We’re excited to bring together opportunities for Australians to get active in their parks and natural spaces and we’re thankful to the Medibank Community Fund for making this possible,” said Sara.

The program was piloted in Geelong and has been running in the region since 2011 coordinated by Barwon Medicare Local, with the support of Parks Victoria and the Medibank Community Fund.

The New Migrants Program has seen particular success in the region, as the program supports and encourages not-for-profit immigration, welfare and community services organisations to run their existing programs in parks, specifically their orientation program for new arrivals and refugees. Participants enjoy park visits involving fun outdoor activities, such as surfing and beach combing, which are introduced in a safe and friendly way to encourage participants to independently enjoy physical activity outdoors and to support connections to their new community and outdoor spaces.

Parks Victoria’s Chief Executive Dr Bill Jackson said the Active in Parks Healthy Parks Healthy People Program continued to represent the strong working relationship between community, health industry, private sector and government.

“We look forward to encouraging more of these Healthy Parks Healthy People Programs and working together to address serious, preventable health issues by ensuring parks and nature are part of the solution.”

To access the online resource go to www.activeinparks.org

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