There are many ways to talk about the value of parks to society. However these ideas are often globally generalized and difficult to apply to decision-making in a specific context. The “Healthy Parks, Healthy People” movement is one such conversation: spoken of often and enthusiastically, but not cohesively understood in Canada.
Recently, nearly two dozen parks and protected area researchers, practitioners, and advisors teamed up under the leadership of Dr. Chris Lemieux (@ultravioletprof), Wilfrid Laurier University Associate Professor and John McMurry Research Chair in Environmental Geography, to remedy this lack of understanding of how parks are linked with public health in Canada.
The article, entitled The ‘healthy parks–healthy people’ movement in Canada: progress, challenges, and an emerging knowledge and action agenda was published in May, 2022 by the open-access International Journal of Protected Areas and Conservation (PARK) and is available free of charge to anyone interested in considering and increasing their understanding of a range of issues related to Healthy Parks, Healthy People.
In addition, supplementary material linked to the article provides relevant, evidence-based recommendations that can help inform decision-makers seeking to incorporate Healthy Parks, Healthy People into their programs and planning. These recommendations also offer a useful roadmap for researchers hoping to work in this field.
In this article, we outline progress and challenges in establishing effective health promotion tied to visitor experiences provided by protected and conserved areas in Canada. Despite an expanding global evidence base, case studies focused on aspects of health and well-being within Canada’s protected and conserved areas remain limited. Data pertaining to motivations, barriers and experiences of visitors are often not collected by governing agencies and, if collected, are not made generally available or reported on. There is an obvious, large gap in research and action focused on the needs and rights of groups facing systemic barriers related to a variety of issues including, but not limited to, access, nature experiences, and needs with respect to health and well-being outcomes. Activation of programmes at the site level continue to grow, and Park Prescription programmes, as well as changes to the Accessible Canada Act, represent significant, positive examples of recent cross-sector policy integration. Evaluations of outcomes associated with HPHP programmes have not yet occurred but will be important to adapting interventions and informing cross-sector capacity building. We conclude by providing an overview of gaps in evidence and practice that, if addressed, can lead to more effective human health promotion vis-à-vis nature contact in protected and conserved areas in Canada.
Christopher J. Lemieux, Mark W. Groulx, Rachel T. Buxton, Catherine E. Reining, Clara-Jane (C.J.) Blye, Nadha Hassen, Sara-Lynn (Penina) Harding, Elizabeth A. Halpenny, Melissa Lem, Sonya L. Jakubec, Pamela Wright, Tonya Makletzoff, Mara Kerry, Karen Keenleyside, Pascale Salah van der Leest, Jill Bueddefeld, Raynald (Harvey) Lemelin, Don Carruthers Den Hoed, Brad Steinberg, Rike Moon, Jacqueline Scott, Jennifer Grant, Zahrah Khan, Dawn Carr, Lisa McLaughlin and Richard Krehbiel