Health and Wellness – What’s at Issue?

Health, Wellness and the Role of Parks & Recreation Professionals

NC Statistics & Issues for Parks & Recreation

State and Local Resources

National Resources


What’s at issue when we discuss the health and wellness of our community?

  • Nearly two-thirds of American adults are either overweight or obese1.
  • The childhood obesity rate is currently more than three times what it was in 1980, growing from 5% to 17%.
  • North Carolina now ranks 14th in the nation in terms of percentage of the population statewide as being overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS).

The Governor’s Task Force for Healthy Carolinians recently reviewed 63 of the 110 objectives set forth for the North Carolina 2010 Health Objectives. Of those 63, sixteen health indicators have worsened since the health objectives were developed in 2000. One worsening indicator is the increase in overweight and obesity among adults and children.

Since 2000, there has been

  • 27.3% increase in the percentage of obese adults (18 and older, BMI>30),
  • 26.3% increase in the percentage of overweight children ages 2-4,
  • 34% increase in the percentage of overweight children ages 12-18,
  • 42.5% increase in the percentage of children ages 5-11 who are overweight.

This data shows that overweight and obesity is a public health crisis that is continuing to get worse with each passing year.

What do these statistics mean to the field of public parks and recreation?

While there are many factors that can contribute to overweight and obesity: portion size, eating meals away from home, drinking sugar sweetened beverages, lack of physical activity, genetics, etc., the basic reason for individuals becoming overweight or obese is an energy imbalance-a lack of calories burned vs. calorie intake. Offering outlets to provide people programs and places for physical activity is one of the main ways that public parks and recreation agencies can play a role in combating the prevalence of overweight and obesity.

As the segment of local government charged with providing opportunities for physical activity to our communities, there is much that public parks and recreation can do to lead local efforts to help reduce the prevalence of overweight and obesity in our communities. Some ideas include:

  • work with your local health department to bring health and wellness programming into your parks and recreation facilities
  • team up with your local school system to provide physical activity in after school programming
  • talk with local physicians about referring patients to your parks and programs
  • work with a local hospital to help fund new parks and greenways

The issue of overweight and obesity is a national health crisis, and our field needs to be at the forefront of the all community efforts attempting to create solutions.

Please visit the following websites for more information about how your department can help improve your community’s health:

State and Local Resources

Resources for the Future (RFF) Discussion Paper (May 2009): Outdoor Recreation, Health and Wellness: Understanding and Enhancing the Relationship

Investigating Places for Active Recreation in Communities Mission: To advance the science of how park, recreation and sport environments promote active living. It also seeks to facilitate the application of evidence-based policies and practices to enhance opportunities for physical activity in these environments to enhance quality of life. For Further Information Contact:

Eat Smart, Move More North Carolina NC Department of Health and Human Services Department of Public Health

Healthy Carolinians Includes Governor’s Task Force, NC 2010 Health Objective, Assessment tools and Local Contacts

Be Active North Carolina

NC Department of Public Health

NC Department of Public Instruction

NCSU Cooperative Extension Service, Family & Consumer Sciences Resources to partners and programs for wellness, health and nutrition.

North Carolina Healthy Schools View the NC DPI, DHHS Healthy Active Children Policy. Links for training, funding, local initiatives.

North Carolina Physical Education is Active Resources for activites, teacher’s toolbox and workshops

Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of North Carolina Funding opportunities in areas such as health education, physical activity and preventive health

North Carolina Health and Wellness Trust Fund Helping schools become 100% tobacco free

National Resources

Active Living by Design Increasing physical activity through community design

Trust for America’s Health Find information on your State’s Health, public policy, discussion forums and action plans for promoting healthy communities.

Action for Healthy Kids Public-private partnership of national organizations and government agencies representing education, health, fitness and nutrition.

National Recreation and Parks Association


1 Health, United States 2003. (Atlanta, Georgia: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National center on Vital Statistics, 2003)

2 Ogden CL, Carroll, MD, Curtin LR, McDowell MA, Tabak CJ, Flegal KM. Prevalence of overweight and obesity in the United States 1999-2004. Journal of the American Medical Association. 295 (13): 1549-55, 2006 Apr 5.