The Public Agrees: Parks and Recreation Are Vital to Healthy Communities

by Together Counts Partner | February 28, 2017 at 9:24 am | comments

Parks and recreation are leading the charge to make our communities healthier. Whether by providing increased opportunities for physical activity through its vast network of parks, fields, trails, pools and recreation centers, offering healthy food options or educating the public on healthy lifestyle options, local park and recreation agencies positively impact millions of people every day.  As a partner of the Together Counts™ program for healthy, active living, NRPA is dedicated to sharing health and wellness tips with communities.

Recently released NRPA data finds that the American public wholeheartedly agrees that health and wellness should be a priority of their park and recreation agencies and strongly support actions consistent with this message.

Three in four respondents to NRPA’s Americans’ Engagement with Parks survey agree that it is either “extremely” or “very” important” for their local park and recreation agency to focus their energies on positive health and wellness outcomes. This includes offering facilities and services that improve both physical (71 percent) and mental (76 percent) health. This belief is held by Americans of all stripes — spanning the generations, differing types of household information, income groups and political affiliations.

But beyond its vast array of facilities, services and offerings, park and recreation agencies can also promote healthier lifestyles through their own policies and actions. With these policies and standards, the agency leads by example in their quest to improve the health of the people that they serve.

NRPA Research data clearly finds that the general public wants to see local park and recreation agencies put into place policies that raise the standard on healthy living in our communities. Recent NRPA Park Pulse polls highlight the strong support that Americans have for these policies.

Americans desire a healthier lifestyle and are paying closer attention to the foods and drinks that they are putting in their body. November’s Park Pulse poll finds that two-thirds of Americans want greater access to healthier food and drink options at vending machines and concession stands located in public spaces. Virtually all segments of the U.S. population want improved access to healthier food choices when they visit their local parks and recreation facilities, but the desire is even stronger among parents, Millennials, African-Americans, Hispanic Americans and those with lower household incomes.

NRPA survey data repeatedly finds that the American public supports the role park and recreation agencies play in promoting healthy lifestyles. Not only is the public relying on the facilities and programming offered by their local park and recreation agencies, they see their local agencies as leading the way towards healthy lifestyles. NRPA Research will continue to gauge the American public’s views on how park and recreation agencies can promote healthier lifestyles in our community.


The National Recreation and Park Association is a national not-for-profit organization dedicated to advancing park, recreation and conservation efforts that enhance quality of life for all people. Through its network of more than 52,000 recreation and park professionals and citizens, NRPA encourages the promotion of healthy and active lifestyles, conservation initiatives and equitable access to parks and public space.

For more healthy and active ideas, check out these reads from Together Counts: