The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has developed a new Parks and Trails Health Impact Assessment (HIA) Toolkit, which aims to encourage outdoor activity by helping communities create parks with expanded health benefits. According to CDC data, less than 30% of U.S. youth get the recommended 60 minutes of aerobic activity per day, and more than 25% of adults report no leisure-time physical activity. Physical inactivity puts people at risk for cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, depression, and many other diseases.
The new toolkit is designed to empower individuals and help community planners address health when designing parks and trails. It includes data on area health issues such as childhood obesity rates, mortality rates, or low birth weights, to help planners target design initiatives to specific health issues. It also features recommendations from existing HIAs for optimizing access and usage, such as evaluating park entry points and identifying the features that support physical activity. Such a framework allows local health departments to work alongside city planners, project managers, community groups, and other stakeholders when creating healthier environments.
CDC is working with local health departments nationwide to help them understand the principles of the HIA. Local health departments in Omaha, NE, and Greenville, SC, have been successful in conducting HIAs for their own parks and trails and implemented features to improve community health such as walking paths, community gardens, event space, open grassy fields, and others. For more information, access the HIA Toolkit here.