Burlington Parks, Recreation & Waterfront (BRPW) and Community Health Centers of Burlington (CHCB) began a pilot Park Rx program on the 16th of July. ParkRx seeks to improve individual and community health by getting patients out and active through free park activities and health coaching.
The 6-week session serves as a primer for future iterations of the program which will hopefully continue to grow in future years. This project is coordinated in part by BRPW’s AmeriCorps member Noah Praamsma with additional support by staff from both organizations, notably Anna Lisa Reynolds and Candice Holbrook. All costs, while kept to a minimum, are subsidized primarily from BRPW’s and CHCB’s operating budgets.
The basic structure of the program is best be described as a “push-pull” collaboration between the healthcare providers at CHCB and the municipal department, BPRW. The providers recommend outdoor activity to patients they believe can benefit from exercise and more time spent in nature. Registration forms are then collected by Praamsma, who serves as the program’s health coach. He then makes contact and encourages individuals to exercise and participate in group walks/other scheduled events.
Group activities occur three to four times per week and at varying times throughout the day. Each week generally includes two walking, one gardening, and one special (chair yoga, tai chi, Bone Builders, or memory café) event. Participation in these activities is incentivized by a points system, redeemable for Outdoor Gear Exchange gift cards, free class coupons at Evolution Yoga, and month-long memberships with Greenride Bikeshare (all donated by those same companies/organizations).
To date, rates of contact and attendance at group events has been low but improving. The hope is that the program will ultimately have a positive impact on the participants, however, the largest goals for this year are to strengthen the BPRW/CHCB collaboration, spread the word to the community, and situating the program for a stronger iteration next year.
If you’d like to get involved, please speak to your CHCB health care team at your next visit and ask for more information on creating and reaching your activity goals through the ParkRx program; current programming is running through the end of August.