Physical Activity and Health Partnerships Among Park and Recreation Departments in North Carolina


  • Candice M. Bruton
  • Myron F. Floyd
  • Jason N. Bocarro
  • Karla A. Henderson
  • Jonathan M. Casper
  • Michael A. Kanters


Physical activity, recreation directors, partnerships, health


n response to increases in overweight and obesity as well as insufficient levels of physical activity in the U.S. population, parks and recreation departments have a role to play in promoting opportunities for physical activity in communities. Multi-sector partnerships involving park and recreation departments, public health departments, and other community organizations have been identified as a key strategy toward increasing physical activity. However, little is known about organizational and personal factors in public park and recreation agencies that may be associated with health partnership participation. The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between organizational and personal factors and health partnership participation among public park and recreation departments in North Carolina. A web-based survey was administered to 216 NC municipal and county public park and recreation agencies resulting in a 64% response rate. The results indicated that about a third of the departments participate in formal partnerships with health departments to promote physical activity. Over half of the departments participate in formal partnerships with other community organizations. Less than half of the departments participated in formal partnerships with schools. Results indicated that departments that served larger populations and had larger operating budgets were more likely to engage in partnerships with county health departments. Interestingly, the CPRP status of directors was positively associated with engaging in a partnership with faith based organizations. Departments that focused their efforts on minorities and obesity among teens were more likely to engage in partnerships with school systems and other community organizations. Departments that focused effort upon individuals with disabilities were more likely to engage in partnerships with YMCAs. Effort focused on other target populations, capital budget, number of years in current position, and years of experience were unrelated to partnership participation. Although some findings align with previous partnership research the study has implications for park and recreation administrators. For example, the positive association between professional certification (CPRP) of the department director and partnerships suggests that the certification process is beneficial to building strong relationships between the recreation and parks profession and other community partners. The study also suggests departments who serve smaller populations may need assistance in identifying partners and sustaining partnerships. Future research specific to public parks and recreation providers should examine organizational and personal managerial factors contributing to participation and non-participation in greater depth. Contributions, costs, benefits, and evaluation of partnerships must be better understood for the field to effectively promote physical activity and health. This line of research is increasingly important in a time of agency budget reductions and the persistence of the obesity pandemic.





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