Award winning parks program honoured
(l to R)(An innovative health program encouraging people to use parks for their health and wellbeing was honoured at a special ceremony in Geelong today (26 June 2012).
Geelong’s Active in Parks program recently took out the prestigious Excellence in Parks (Social) Award at the 5th International Parks Management and Leadership Conference in Adelaide.
Speaking at today’s celebration event at Barwon Edge Boathouse in Newtown, Victoria’s Parliamentary Secretary for Health, Nick Wakeling MP said the award was well-deserved recognition of excellence and best practice by the Active in Parks team.
“The award recognised projects that welcome new visitors or encourage the use of parks by groups that do not usually visit them. The Active in Parks team has been doing fantastic work in this area and their success is being watched with great interest by others across Australia ,” Mr Wakeling said.
Today’s celebration event included the presentation of certificates by Mr Wakeling to a number of partner organisations backing the Active in Parks program.
“Launched last September, Geelong’s Active in Parks program involves health professionals, including doctors and allied health staff, prescribing park visits to improve the health and wellbeing of patients and clients,” Mr Wakeling said.
The program also offers a range of free or low cost activities for the general community, which are detailed on the program’s website www.activeinparks.org
The program’s architect, Dr Rob Grenfell said the program was founded on a growing body of evidence that showed spending time in nature was vital for people’s health and wellbeing.
“We’ve spent the last 100 years disconnecting from the natural environment, and the result is a steady increase in lifestyle diseases and increasing social disconnection,” Dr Grenfell said.
“As both a general practitioner and a public health physician, I believe there is enormous potential for the natural environment to improve people’s health.
“There’s a tremendous opportunity for the health sector to use nature as part of a patient’s medical treatment – it’s much cheaper to prescribe a walk in the park than to build a new hospital.
“For many of us, the best prescription we can have is to take a step into a natural space like a park or the beach. This will not only benefit individual health, but potentially reduce the enormous cost of treating preventable diseases,” Dr Grenfell said.
G21 - Geelong Region Alliance CEO, Elaine Carbines said G21 had been pleased to host the project team within the organisation.
“We’ve been delighted to work closely with the People and Parks Foundation and Parks Victoria, with funding from Medibank Community Fund, to show that the health and wellbeing of people living in our region can be improved by connecting with nature,” Ms Carbines said.
Mr Wakeling said the celebration event was an opportunity to recognise the unique collaboration across organisations which had made Active in Parks such a success in the relatively short time since it was launched.
Active in Parks is a joint pilot program of Parks Victoria, People & Parks Foundation and G21 - Geelong Regional Alliance. As such it is supported by the G21 region’s five municipalities: City of Greater Geelong, Colac Otway Shire, Borough of Queenscliffe, Surf Coast Shire and Golden Plains Shire.
The program also includes many principal and supporting partners including: the Department of Health, the Department of Planning and Community Development, Barwon Medicare Local, Deakin University, Barwon Health, Diversitat, Pathways, headspace Barwon, Bellarine Community Health, Leisure Networks and the Heart Foundation.
People and Parks Foundation CEO, Jacqui de Kievit said linking people with parks through health and community professionals had already proved to be beneficial to residents in the Geelong region.
“Participants are really enjoying the range of activities on offer – it has been really pleasing to see,” Ms de Kievit said.
“The collaboration between so many organisations in such a short time has been extremely rewarding for all involved.
“Local support for the program has been wonderful. The engagement from the parks, health and community sectors is proving to be really positive for the community,” Ms de Kievit said.