The Parks Alliance (TPA), the UK’s voice of parks, in response to the Government consultation on its ‘New Strategy for Sport’ calls for a study of the value of green prescribing. Recognising that investing in prevention is more cost effective than paying for the cure, the TPA calls for a clinical trial to provide the health sector with the verifiable evidence to warrant investment in green participation prescriptions.
Green participation prescriptions are where GPs refer patients to non-clinical sources of support to improve their mental and physical health. Measures that could be prescribed include physical activity to address the root causes of ill health. It is already proven that sports participation and physical activity can help with both physical and mental health and well-being, promote personal growth and resilience and support community cohesion.
Parks are already playing a key role in getting the UK active. Parks, largely free at point of use offer a low cost means of grass roots participation to draw in hard to reach groups. Regular participation is better than one-off, so reducing barriers such as costs is an important driver to deliver continued participation.
Current schemes include Sport England’s investment in Active People Active Parks programme at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park which has seen a significant return on first and regular participants and this low cost/free to try model is delivering significantly more participants than expected.
Mark Camley, Chairman of The Parks Alliance, said:
‘We all know there is an obesity crisis in the UK and parks can offer a solution to get more people active. Public parks have always played a key role in sports with football pitches and tennis courts in public parks providing an outlet for generations of young people.
‘There are always new ways of engaging the young, for instance, park-wide wi-fi in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London has encouraged young adults to visit the park and as a result benefit from hidden, informal exercise. The Park, working with Intelligent Health on a mobile phone based initiative called Beat the Streets, has encouraged participants largely school children, to tap in to smart meters and gain points for walking between different points in the Park. The scheme is seeing over 1,000 miles per day walked by participants.’
TPA members, the Institute of Groundsmanship have also called for the Government’s Sportsmatch scheme to be accelerated and extended to include sports turf suppliers. In addition they would like to see a national framework for natural turf pitches. Their Chief Executive and TPA Board member, Geoff Webb said:
‘Parks should be the lifeblood of participation and activity. With new maintenance models there is a greater need for understanding and implementing appropriate maintenance plans for park pitches.’