Cost savings tool estimates economic benefits of parks

The National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) has released a new resource, The Economic Benefits of Parks: Health Care Cost Savings of Equitable Park Access. This online tool provides park and recreation professionals and advocates with an easy-to-understand method for communicating the economic benefits that result from eliminating inequitable park access and their associated improved health outcomes.

The tool will estimate the annual health benefits in dollars should a city or town ensure every community member lives within walking or rolling distance of a park or other public open space. The tool, which was informed by two resources produced by Urban Institute researchers and funded by NRPA, has data from more than 11,000 communities across the United States.

“This tool will help park and recreation professionals and their communities calculate the health economic value if everyone in their community had equitable access to the benefits of parks,” said Kellie May, NRPA chief partnerships officer. “This valuable information will help communities make the case for greater, equitable and more sustainable park and recreation funding.”

The first of the two earlier resources from the Urban team were Health Benefits of Parks and Their Economic Impacts: A Review of the Literature, a holistic examination of academic and non-governmental organization research findings that demonstrate the benefits of parks and open spaces across four dimensions of health — physical, mental, social and environmental — and the economic impacts of these contributions.

The second, A Framework for Assessing Equitable Health Outcomes of Parks, is a report that explains how parks promote greater well-being, focusing on demonstrating the economic value of these benefits. The framework follows five steps: (1) identify park characteristics, (2) examine who has access, (3) select and measure health outcomes, (4) estimate economic benefits, and (5) drive equity through action steps.

“The products from the Urban team can support park leaders with innovative and comprehensive ways to measure, understand, and communicate the economic value of the health benefits of parks,” said Kimberly Burrowes, a researcher at the Urban Institute. “They also document who has access to what types of parks and can assist in identifying where government leaders may want to target resources to provide the greatest benefit for community members.”