Pittsburgh kids will be equipped with more ways to be physically active in their local parks as the result of Pittsburgh Parks Rx (Prescription), a new program launched by partners including Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, and Lawrenceville United. Parks Rx will focus on getting kids into their local parks through connections with their school, community, and healthcare providers. The program emphasizes the importance of outdoor activity in the physical, emotional, and behavioral health of our city’s young people.
Nearly 18 months in the works, Pittsburgh Parks Rx is the result of strong partnerships between the Parks Conservancy, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, Lawrenceville United, Pittsburgh Public Schools’ Pittsburgh Arsenal PreK-5, Pittsburgh Arsenal 6-8 and Pittsburgh Woolslair PreK-5, with participation from the City of Pittsburgh’s Department of Parks & Recreation (Citiparks), Allegheny County Health Department, UPMC St. Margaret Lawrenceville Family Health Center, Allegheny Partners for Outof-School Time (APOST), and the Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation. All share the goals of better health through outdoor activity and making learning through nature fun for Pittsburgh’s young people. Pittsburgh Parks Rx is rolling out in Pittsburgh Arsenal middle and elementary schools today and in additional schools, community centers, and medical practices in 2016.
Pittsburgh Parks Rx prescribers will include family doctors and clinics, school nurses, teachers, and physical education instructors, and community organizations. Each Pittsburgh Parks Rx participant will receive materials custom-designed for them that will assist in finding activities in all seasons in a park near them, ongoing contact with their Pittsburgh Parks Rx prescriber, and opportunities to engage with other Pittsburgh Parks Rx kids in their neighborhood. Materials include individual park guides that show park hours, directions, and park activities like animal tracking, leaf and bark identification, and nature treasure hunts.
“When schools, community, parks professionals, and health partners join forces with families for the common goal of healthier kids, it is a powerful thing,” said Gavin White, Community Outreach Coordinator for the Parks Conservancy. “Connecting a child to our parks through many points of contact increases their opportunities to discover the many healthy – and fun – benefits our parks have to offer. Parks also benefit when kids and their families regularly use them. The increased use helps ensure that strong bonds with the parks are formed, bringing better care from users, neighbors, and partners alike.”
Anne Marie Kuchera, Project Director for Community Benefit Initiatives at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC stresses the importance of kids getting outside early and often to form healthy habits for their entire lives. “Every day we see the health benefits of getting kids outside on a regular basis, from reduced blood pressure and a reduction in risk for childhood weight problems, to increased muscle strength, improved mood, and overall health,” said Ms. Kuchera. “For these reasons, we’re happy to be a Pittsburgh Parks Rx partner, to help put kids on the trail to a lifetime of good health.” “Furthermore, programs like Parks Rx have the potential to significantly impact public health”, said Amber Blackwood, Graduate Student at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.
Elizabeth Miller, MD, PhD, Chief of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC sees first-hand the benefits of kids who keep active in the outdoors, and welcomes this fresh approach. “For a child to have support in forming healthy outdoor exercise habits from a multitude of respected grown-ups, and to have Pittsburgh Parks Rx partners support those efforts is a great thing for our kids and community,” said Dr. Miller.
Pittsburgh Parks Rx is working closely with the communities they serve, and Lawrenceville United’s executive director Lauren Byrne says they are excited to see parks, health, school, and community allies working together. “Kids who play and explore outside are not only healthier, but they contribute to better societies, too. The social skills learned outside, and the appreciation and respect of your surroundings are key to being healthy, contributing members of a community. We recently completed Master Plans for both Arsenal and Leslie Parks here in Lawrenceville, and we know from the hundreds of people who provided feedback for those plans that our parks are critical ingredients to the quality of life in Lawrenceville and Pittsburgh.”
Pittsburgh Parks Rx will take lessons learned in the Lawrenceville neighborhood through the 2015-2016 school year and identify opportunities for expansion throughout Pittsburgh. For resources and downloadable materials, or to indicate that your child, school, or community group would like to be involved with Pittsburgh Parks Rx, please visit www.pittsburghparks.org/rx
For images or media inquiries, please contact Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy Senior Manager of Communications and Creative Scott Roller at 412.682.7275 ex 220, 412.725.0023 (mobile), or firstname.lastname@example.org.