The Park District is invested in the health of the communities we serve. We know that being outdoors, especially in natural settings, bring physical and mental health benefits to individuals, families and communities. In 2011, we worked closely with the Institute at Golden Gate, U.S. National Parks Service, and regional park agencies to launch a nine-county collaboration: Healthy Parks Healthy People (HPHP). This global initiative encourages healthy active fun in the outdoors while appreciating and taking care of parks and open green space areas.
Since 2014, we have partnered with healthcare providers and community leaders to implement Park Rx: prescribing nature as a preventative intervention for chronic illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity. We have also teamed up with universities/research institutes to determine outcomes of being active in nature.
We implement Park Rx by providing transportation to our parks, fun activities such as community walking, group games, meditation and yoga. We also install murals of our parks throughout select clinics to inspire everyone to get active outdoors. We hold six to ten Multicultural Wellness Walks annually in our parklands. Each walk brings 90 to 150 participants, ages 2 to 80, and includes a diversity of ethnicity, race, gender, religious traditions, abilities, and socioeconomic backgrounds. To date, we've walked with over 4,000 participants. We also encourage community organizations to form their own walking groups and walk in nearby parks.
Below are several of our Park Rx partners in Alameda and Contra Costa counties:
In 2014, we launched the Park Rx SHINE program in partnership with UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland by integrating nature into this outpatient primary care clinic. We installed park murals throughout the clinic and renamed seven clinic rooms after the regional parks. On the first Saturday of every month, the Park District and Regional Parks Foundation (RPF) provide a free half-day at the park for pediatric patients, which include transportation, healthy lunch, and a day of fun outdoor activities led by park staff. The patients are accompanied by their guardians and medical staff.
Over time, the clinic integrated Park Rx into their electronic medical system where over 100 physicians prescribe time in nature for children with chronic illnesses. New doctors receive training modules and toolkits to prescribe SHINE. Trained clinic volunteers follow up with the patients’ families to schedule their park visits.
To date, over 3,000 children and family members have participated in the SHINE program - walking together in the parks, playing games, learning about nature, making new friends, and improving their overall sense of well being. For some of the families, this may be the first time they have been to a Regional Park or an outdoor recreational environment.
In 2016, the clinic conducted a health study in partnership with EBRPD, RPF and UC Berkeley to measure the outcomes of the SHINE program. Read more.
We have also supported the Down Syndrome Clinic (Charlie's Clinic) at USCF Benioff CHO where clinicians and staff enjoy an annual picnic and outdoor activities with their pediatric patients and families at Lake Chabot Regional Park.
Since 2008, Kaiser Permanente has generously funded many programs for the community, including those bringing school children, seniors, and the underserved communities to our Regional Parks for education and health and wellness. Some of the programs include Trails Challenge, Kids Health Outdoors Challenge (KHOC), Multicultural Wellness Walks, youth outdoor adventures, and senior outings. Kaiser Permanente also actively promotes walking within their organization and conducts staff-led walks in the Regional Parks.
In 2015, we partnered with Contra Costa County Health Services which comprises 9 clinics in the cities of Antioch, Bay point, Brentwood, Concord, Martinez, Pittsburg, Richmond, San Pablo, and Walnut Creek. We provided park videos - showcasing healthy outdoor activities in the Regional Parks - which played continuously in the clinics' waiting rooms. We also installed park murals throughout the Antioch clinic. The RPF provides free transportation to the parks for patients enrolled in the pediatric obesity and adult mindfulness programs. The physicians and therapists accompany the patients for wellness walks and interactive mindfulness activities such as meditation, yoga, Tai Chi, creative arts.
In 2018, the RPF provided funding to start a Walk With a Doc chapter to enable physicians to lead wellness walks in the Regional Parks for their patients, families, and community members.
Since 2015, the Park District has partnered with The Latina Center which serves 1,200 women and children in Richmond. The RPF and Kaiser Permanente provide transportation to their members to participate in our Multicultural Wellness Walks.
In 2017, we collaborated with San Francisco State University and The Latina Center to launch PASITO, a joint research study to measure the impact of walking in nature on physical and emotional health as well as social connection between participants.
In 2018, community members formed their own wellness walking group called GENTE (people). GENTE is also an acronym for "Gustosos, con Entusiasmo Nos dedicamos Todos a caminar con Energy." In English it means "Dedicating Ourselves to Walking with Pleasure, Enthusiasm and Energy." In addition to walking actively in the parks, the participants also learn about the benefits of an active lifestyle, eating healthy and drinking water, instead of soda.
In 2014, we partnered with EHI to support its membership of 40 Black churches and Health Ministry. We participated in EHI's annual Hypertension and Wellness Sunday by welcoming congregants to the Regional Parks, and join in the Multicultural Wellness Walks and Trails Challenge. We provided map brochures of the Regional Parks and Activity Guides with outdoor and family programs.
In 2017, together with EHI, we launched an Interfaith Wellness Walk contest among 25 Black churches. The contest gave the church leaders a platform to actively promote walking in the outdoors among their congregants.
Since 2018, in partnership with Eden Area Interfaith Council and EHI, we have commemorated the annual United Nations International Day of Peace on September 21 at Lake Chabot. Over 100 people, representing diverse community organizations and faith traditions, attend to celebrate our interdependence and to share messages/prayers, songs, and reflections on Shaping Peace in a rapidly changing world. We pledge that we will cooperate to actively build a world of respect, justice, and safety for all peoples.
In 2016, we collaborated with NAMI and MHACC leaders to bring their members with cognitive illnesses such as dementia and Alzheimer's disease to participate in our Multicultural Wellness Walks. Their leaders also attended the rally to support Prop 68 Parks and Water Bond in Sacramento in May 2018.
In 2015, we presented Park Rx to 45 TVHC volunteer promotoras de salud (health promoters). The training, conducted in Spanish, provided the promotoras with a toolkit on the health benefits of spending time in nature; maps of nearby Regional Parks; and Activity Guides.
In 2017, we teamed up with the Migrant Program at New Haven Adult School to bring the immigrant community to the Multicultural Wellness Walks to enhance their physical and mental wellbeing.
In 2019, we partnered with Alameda County Public Health Dept., ROOTS, and EHI to meet the outdoor goals of the county's Bridging the Gap in Diabetes Care program. Clinic staff and Samuel Merritt Physical Therapy (PT) students accompanied the diabetic patients on 1.5- hour walks in various parks - MLK Jr Shoreline, Lake Chabot, Crown Beach.
PT students provided low-impact exercises before, during, and after the walk. Staff presented on the essentials of managing diabetes - daily walking and exercises, drinking water, balanced and nutritious diet, maintaining a healthy weight, connecting with friends and family, getting a good night's rest, and sticking to medication and insulin regimen.
Park Rx partnerships in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties