Policy Forum Brings State Leaders and Youth, Heath & Parks Advocates Together to Discuss Parks as a Public Health Solution and Launch California State Parks Foundation’s New Advocacy Initiative ‘Pathways to Parks’
Sacramento, CA – California State Parks Foundation today held its inaugural Policy Forum bringing together a cross-section of state leaders and advocates to examine the status of children’s health in California and develop solutions to leverage the state’s open spaces as a tool to improve community health, especially for youth in underserved neighborhoods. Today’s forum also marked the official launch of the Foundation’s new advocacy initiative Pathways to Parks that will promote policies and programs explored at the forum and is designed to increase access to state parks so that the green spaces in our backyards can better serve as a public health solution for all Californians.
“Our parks are only as strong as the people who use and advocate for them, which is why we are working to bring advocates and leaders from different communities together to develop solutions to increase access to green space for those who need it most, while identifying opportunities to leverage our state’s outdoor treasures as public health solutions,” said Rachel Norton, Executive Director of California State Parks Foundation. “Today’s forum and the launch of the Pathways to Parks initiative is just the beginning – the ideas, solutions and partnerships built here will fuel our work to bring communities together and open up new roads to parks because a California for All must include Parks for All.”
First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom, a fierce advocate for California’s youth, provided the Forum’s opening remarks and officially announced her partnership with the Foundation on the Pathways to Parks initiative. In announcing her partnership with the Foundation, the First Partner highlighted the need to increase access to open spaces, especially for the state’s underserved youth – a sentiment that was echoed throughout the day in statements from marquee speakers, like Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, and during panel discussions with leaders from the outdoor, youth and health communities.
“We have the opportunity right now to build pathways to healthier lives for all Californians – and it starts in our state parks with our kids. Time spent outdoors provides clear mental and physical health benefits at every stage of life, but for youth in underserved communities this opportunity is harder to come by,” said First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom. “That is why I am proud to be working with the California State Parks Foundation on the Pathways to Parks initiative to increase access to our state’s many green and open spaces so that everyone can experience, learn, grow and connect with the outdoors.”
Mounting research points to the numerous mental and physical health benefits that the outdoors provides and are a clear public health solution that should be a right for all Californians. Recently published research from UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability and California State Parks Foundation demonstrates the opportunity that our state parks hold with findings illustrating that more than half of Californians under 18 live within close range of a state park. This data highlights the fact that our parks are a tremendous and potentially underutilized resource to promote youth health across the state.
“Our children are our future and it is incumbent upon all of us to explore every avenue, break down every barrier and forge every path to ensure our youth can reach their full potential,” said Ted Lempert, President of Children Now. “California’s state parks represent an avenue -- right at our fingertips -- to improving children's health, education, and connection to community that must be explored.”
Open access to places for physical activity, like parks, can help strengthen bones and muscle, reduce risk of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and some cancers, improve mental health and mood and increase chances of living longer. Supporting, promoting and pushing for policies that will increase access to California’s state parks will help encourage and maintain community health by ensuring Californians of all backgrounds have access to the health and wellness benefits parks provide.
“The path to a healthier California starts well before anybody ever gets to the door of a doctor’s office or hospital. We need to invest in all Californians having affordable access to health coverage and care for when they get sick, but also so they stay healthy by having access to secure places to learn, exercise, play, work, and connect with nature and one another, like our state parks,” said Anthony Wright, Executive Director of Health Access. “A healthier California is a more prosperous California, and state parks are part of the solution.”
The Policy Forum took place today at the Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley California with remarks given by First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, Undersecretary for Natural Resources, Angela Barranco and Mark Rossow from Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia’s office. The forum included three panel discussions featuring diverse speakers from the parks, health and youth sectors: The Status of Children’s Health in California, Improving Youth Health Through Parks and Growing Future Park Stewards with Pathways to Parks. More information on the forum, speakers and panelists can be found at: www.Calparks.org/policyforum