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Journal of Park and Recreation Administration

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Assessing the Health Partnership Practices of Park and Recreation Agencies: Findings and Implications from a National Survey

Andrew J. Mowen, Laura L. Payne, Elizabeth Orsega-Smith, Geoffrey C. Godbey

Abstract


Park and recreation partnerships may be effective in raising health awareness and promoting enhanced levels of physical activity and health (Spangler & Caldwell, 2007). While there have been individual health partnership evaluations and case studies, a more comprehensive assessment of health partnership practices across park and recreation organizations remains elusive. To address this gap, a nationwide survey of park and recreation agencies was conducted to document health partnership practices, characteristics, and effectiveness. To better understand and promote circumstances that favor health partnership participation, we also compared the characteristics of park and recreation agencies that engaged in health partnerships to those that did not. Results indicated that a large number of park and recreation organizations (88%) had participated in at least one health partnership, with some participating in several at a time. Larger organizations (e.g., larger budgets, larger populations served) were more likely to participate in health partnerships. Among health partnership non-participants, lack of resources to initiate the partnership was a key barrier to participation. Schools and public health agencies were frequently cited as partners and physical activity promotion, obesity prevention, and general wellness were the core issues partnership issues addressed. Organizations with physical activity partnerships emphasized programmatic (e.g., special event) and environmental approaches (e.g., creation of active park features). Facilities and access to the public were described as key contributions that park and recreation agencies brought to their health partnership(s). Respondents felt that visibility, meeting the mission statement, and image were key partnership benefits and perceived their partnerships as being somewhat or very effective. Findings suggest that park and recreation agencies are recognizing the need to leverage their resources with outside organizations to address the nation’s health concerns. Despite these findings, there is still room to improve future health partnership practice. For example, agencies serving rural, smaller populations were less likely to engage in health partnerships. Moreover, efforts to create activity-friendly policies and environments (in addition to current programmatic efforts) could be better integrated into future partnership activities. This study 117 may serve as a basis from which to evaluate future health partnership participation and progress. However, further inquiry is warranted. Future health partnership research should assess the perspectives and activities of other health partnership stakeholders (education, public health) and evaluate community health outcomes that result due to partnership efforts.

Keywords


partnerships, collaborations, parks and recreation, physical activity, health

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