Creating a new program or policy can seem overwhelming, but there are steps that your agency can take to make it manageable. Planning your agency’s approach to promoting healthy eating and physical activity is crucial. We have outlined several steps below that you can take to define your participation in the initiative, and to build support with your employees and the public.
Determine your agency’s involvement. How will it create a positive impact in your community?
Your agency has decided to join the initiative and promote healthy eating and physical activity in your community. The next step is to inventory your current programs and policies. Do you have any wellness programs in place? Have you taken any steps to active transportation and recreation in your community? Are there programs that could be changed or expanded to include these goals?
After looking at your existing health promotion, think about your ideal parks and recreation agency. What type of programs would you like to offer? What types of food would your parks sell? Would there be additional facilities? How would people get to your facilities?
Write down your ideas as you come up with them. If you are unsure where to begin, try using the easy, quick project ideas for a healthier agency now page to come up with ideas. When you are finished, look through the list. Which goals are you most passionate about? Pick your top goals and think about what you can do to begin to implement them. You can then use our project planning worksheet to further develop your project. Once you have a better idea of what it will take to implement the project, start discussing your ideas with other staff members.
Building support among staff
Support from your department is critical to the success of your public health promotion. If you are implementing new programs and policies, staff in your agency should be able to understand why this change is happening, and be able to share that information with the public. Here are some ideas to help build support with your staff:
- Share facts about healthy eating and physical activity in your community (see fact sheet to get started)
- Ask for their opinion on your agency’s current health promotion, and ways it can improve.
- Find ways that the changes your agency are making can help your employees’ health as well.
- Have a training session about promoting healthy lifestyles, and sensitivity training for working with people who have medical conditions.
- Create department goals, and provide incentives to your staff for reaching those goals.
- Encourage staff to take active breaks from the computers, or during lunch.
- Let your staff come up with creative ways to partner with other departments, agencies, or organizations.
Once your staff is on board, start reaching out to citizens in your community.
Marketing your project and building community support
The first place to go to find support is in your parks! The people who use the parks the most probably have a lot of ideas of things that could be changed and new programs that could be added. Set up a booth at local events that presents information about your wellness program, and invite public input for future projects. For people who are on your contact list (program attendees, facility pass holders) send out an online survey to let them know about what you are planning, and to gauge interest and ask for feedback. In addition, if you have a friends group, reach out to them for support. Friends groups are in a great position to help develop a fundraising campaign for a new project if you do not have money in your budget for implementation.
Partnerships with other organizations are also a great way to cultivate public support. Your agency could partner with your county health department to hold a health fair in one of your parks. But potential partners go far beyond your health department. Think outside of the box. Bike shops might want to sponsor a giveaway or a community bike ride. Private golf courses might pair up with an agency to introduce kids to golf. Soccer leagues might want to have a soccer day to get new people interested in playing the game. Health food store could provide cooking demo and tastings at events. Identify potential partners in your community and tell them about your wellness initiative. You might be surprised by who wants to help.
Finally, don't forget non-users of your facilities and underserved populations in your community, especially if they are the target population for your project. Find connections to those groups within your current supporters, and reach out to them to ask what their needs are. Consider a large-scale event, similar to Seattle's Big Day of Play to engage these groups, as well as other users of park facilities, with you department, and teach them what parks and recreation has to offer.
Use the rest of the toolkit to help implement your project. Once you are done, share how it went with us, so we can add your tips in the toolkit to help other agencies. If you need help with any stage of this process, email or call us at (919) 832-5868.
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