Program taps public lands to improve public health

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

This week, National Park Service brass took to California to push its new Healthy Parks, Healthy People initiative.

grca-visitors
Visitors walk between Mather Point and Yavapai Observation Station at Grand Canyon National Park. Photo: P. Mike Quinn, NPS

You can get the details from the Marin Independent Journal‘s Mark Prado (or this NPS release). The meetings were dedicated to realizing the potential of what NPS director Jon Jarvis called “a major untapped source of public health.”

“Public health pretty much has been confined to the discussion around new pharmaceuticals or modern medicine,” Jarvis said. “But studies are showing there are unique benefits in getting outside and getting active. Being outdoors can have a positive effect on everything from stress to attention disorders to healing.”

Jarvis added that, while “Our national parks have always been loved for their symbolism and scenery,” now “we aim to increase the awareness of all parks as places for exercise and healthy living.” His remarks are now available for review online.



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Prado writes that the efforts are being modeled partly on a successful program in Australia, where “the parks have a website that provides information on the latest international research, innovations and programs that focus on the health benefits of human contact with the natural world.” For more on Australia’s pioneering “Healthy Parks Healthy People” initiative, created by Parks Victoria, see the Parks Australia website.

The American initiative includes not only the nation’s flagship national parks, but to a variety of public lands, many of them within easy reach of urban and suburban areas. It’s a chance to highlight public lands in your coverage area and explore current research into the health benefits of the great outdoors. Of course, if Congress doesn’t come to an agreement on the budget and the federal government is shut down, the National Park Services’ 394 sites will be closed.

For more details from the meetings and resulting discussions, I recommend quickly browsing the #hphpUS hashtag.

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