N' Parks Program Continues to Help Participants of All Ages Adopt
National community-based program focuses on choosing heart-healthy
foods and increasing physical activity to reduce obesity and risk
of heart disease
From eating more heart-healthy foods to being more physically active,
participants in Hearts N' Parks programs across the country report
significant improvements in what they know, think, and do about
heart-healthy eating and physical activity, according to the 2003
performance report. A collaboration between the National Recreation
and Park Association (NRPA) and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood
Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health, Hearts N'
Parks is a community-based program to reduce the growing trend of
obesity and to lower the risk of coronary heart disease in the United
The performance report compares the scores of pre-test and post-test
questionnaires completed by 2,800 participants from 48 Hearts N'
Parks sites (Magnet Centers) across the country. For example, when
asked whether they choose healthier foods over less healthy foods,
children's scores improved 14 percent, and adolescents' scores increased
by 15 percent. Furthermore, although all age groups reported increasing
their physical activity levels, adults significantly improved by
15 percent; adults also reported reducing the number of hours in
a week spent being sedentary, such as watching TV, by 2 to 4 hours.
"While obesity is clearly a national issue, the solution lies
at the local level," says John Thorner, NRPA executive director.
"Community park and recreation systems play a vital role in
delivering both education and public places for citizens to pursue
NHLBI Acting Director Dr. Barbara Alving lauded the partnership
between the two organizations. "The results of the Hearts N'
Parks program show that when science-based public health agencies
such as NHLBI work closely with community-based organizations such
as park and recreation departments, we really can have a positive
The impact of Hearts N' Parks expanded significantly during 2003:
the number of participants more than doubled (up from 1200 in 2002)
as did the number of programs (142 programs in 2003, compared to
68 in 2002). In addition, Magnet Centers significantly increased
participation by adolescents, adult males, and Hispanics groups
that traditionally are less likely to participate in recreation
Because the activities are offered as part of local park and recreation
programs such as summer day camps, after-school and senior programs,
they are readily accessible to community members. NHLBI provides
science-based educational materials about lifestyle choices that
can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, such as developing
healthier eating habits and participating in regular physical activity.
For the second year, more than 50 Hearts N' Parks Magnet Centers
in 11 states are part of the program.
Additional performance results include:
- Children learned to identify healthy foods and reported
being more willing to choose healthier foods over less healthy foods.
On average, post-test scores from 1,735 children increased 26 percent
for heart-healthy eating knowledge; 15 percent for heart-healthy
eating intention. Children also increased their interest in various
forms of physical activity.
- Hearts N' Parks programs for adolescents expanded in 2003.
Data from nearly 370 teens (up from 93 teens in 2002) indicate significant
improvements in heart-healthy eating knowledge and attitude, and
overweight/obesity knowledge and attitude.
- Adult participants significantly improved their knowledge
of heart-healthy eating, overweight and obesity health risks, proper
ways to engage in regular physical activity, causes of high blood
pressure, and ways to control blood cholesterol levels. They also
improved their heart-healthy eating behavior and attitude toward
heart-healthy eating, overweight and obesity, and physical activity.
Dr. Alving adds, "We applaud the commitment of NRPA and its
members to increasing public awareness about the need to eat healthy,
participate in regular physical activity, and maintain a healthy
weight and to empowering individuals of all ages to adopt these
behaviors to lower their risk of obesity and heart disease."
The complete report of 2003 Hearts N' Parks Magnet Center Performance
Data can be found on NRPA's website at www.nrpa.org
(click on Programs & Partnerships, Magnet Centers, Hearts N'
Parks) and on the NHLBI website at www.nhlbi.nih.gov
(click on Networks and Outreach, Hearts N' Parks, Magnet Center
Hearts N' Parks Magnet Centers are located in the following locations:
- Arizona - Glendale, Phoenix, Sierra Vista;
- Florida - Largo, Lee County, Tallahassee, Tamarac;
- Georgia - Athens, Roswell, Savannah;
- Illinois - Decatur, Homewood, Rockford, Urbana;
- Indiana - Bloomington, Fort Wayne, Gary, Indianapolis, Lafayette,
- Maryland - Baltimore, Howard County, Montgomery County, Prince
George's County, Queen Anne's County;
- Michigan - Adrian, Meridian Township, Monroe, Muskegon;
- Missouri - Jefferson City, Kansas City, Poplar Bluff, Rolla,
Springfield, St. Louis County;
- Nevada - Henderson, Las Vegas, Reno;
- New Mexico - Albuquerque, Las Cruces, Rio Rancho, Roswell;
- Ohio - Bowling Green, Elyria, Greene County;
Magnet Centers are also located in the following Marine Corps.
bases: Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii; Camp Pendleton, California; Beaufort
and Parris Island, South Carolina; and Cherry Point and Camp LeJeune,
North Carolina. A map of Magnet Centers, with links to program descriptions,
is also available on the Hearts N' Parks Website (http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/prof/heart/obesity/hrt_n_pk/hnp_map.htm).
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute is part of the
National Institutes of Health, the Federal Government's primary
agency for biomedical and behavioral research and a component of
the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NHLBI leads the
national research program in diseases of the heart, blood vessels,
lung, and blood; blood resources; and sleep disorders. The NHLBI
also conducts educational activities for health professionals and
the public in these and related areas, including overweight and
obesity. Hearts N' Parks is a program of the NHLBI Obesity Education
Initiative, established in 1991 to help reduce the prevalence of
overweight, obesity, and physical inactivity in order to lower the
risk, and overall morbidity and mortality from heart disease and
other conditions such as Type 2 diabetes and sleep apnea. For more
information, visit www.nhlbi.nih.gov.
National Recreation and Park Association is a national, not-for-profit
organization dedicated to advancing park, recreation and conservation
efforts that enhance the quality of life for all Americans. Through
its network of 23,000 recreation and park professionals and civic
leaders, NRPA encourages the promotion of healthy lifestyles, recreation
initiatives for youths in high-risk environments, and conservation
of natural and cultural resources. Headquartered in Ashburn,Virginia,
NRPA works closely with local, state and national recreation and
park agencies, citizen groups and corporations in carrying out its
objectives. Priorities include advocating favorable legislation
and public policy, continuing education for park and recreation
professionals and citizens, professional certification and university
accreditation, increasing public awareness of the importance of
parks and recreation, research and technical assistance. For more
information, visit www.nrpa.org.