At East Bay Regional Park District, we are 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. Since 2014, we have partnered with healthcare providers and community leaders who are interested in 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 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, socioeconomic status, gender, language, and religion.
Here 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 several 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. Trained clinic volunteers follow up with the patients’ families to schedule their park visit.
To date, over 1,000 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 many of the families, this is 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.
Since 2008, Kaiser Permanente has generously funded many programs bringing school children, seniors and the underserved communities members to our Regional Parks for education and health and wellness. Some of the programs include Kids Health Outdoors Challenge (KHOC), Multicultural Wellness Walks 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 11 clinics from Richmond to Antioch. We provided videos (showcasing healthy outdoor activities in the Regional Parks) which played continuously in the 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.
In 2018, the RPF provided funding to start a Walk With a Doc chapter to enable physicians to lead wellness walks in nature for their patients, families, and community members.
Since 2015, the Park District has partnered with The Latina Center which serves 800 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. Final results will be released in December, 2018.
In 2018, community members established their own wellness walking group called GENTE which means people in Spanish. 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 walking in nature, eating healthy and drinking water instead of soda.
In 2017, the Park District and EHI launched an Interfaith Wellness Walk contest among 10 African American churches. The contest gave the church leaders a platform to actively promote walking in nature among their congregants.
In 2016, the Park District collaborated with NAMI 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 Sacramento rally to support Prop 68 Parks and Water Bond.
In 2015, the Park District presented Park Rx to 45 TVHC volunteer promotoras de salud (health promoters). They were encouraged to educate their community on the health benefits of spending time in nature. They were also provided with maps of nearby Regional Parks and activity guides.
In 2017, the Park District teamed up with the Migrant Program at New Haven Adult School to bring the immigrant community to the Multicultural Wellness Walks to improve their physical and mental wellbeing.
Park Rx partnerships in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties