At A Glance
As of May 2017, 7,360 residents in Birmingham, AL, were prescribed physical activity to improve their health. The University of Alabama Birmingham’s (UAB’s) Minority Health & Health Disparities Research Center teamed up with 23 health care providers to pilot “Parks Rx” at a local health department. With Parks Rx, patients are prescribed physical activity and linked to online resources where they can find more than 140 local parks to get active. More than 25,000 patients at the health department have access to the program’s online resources.
Public Health Challenge
Alabama has the second highest rate of adult obesity in the nation, according to 2015 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The state’s rates of type 2 diabetes and deaths from heart disease and cancer are also higher than the national average. Physical activity can help reduce the risks of these chronic conditions. Yet, nearly 32% of Alabama adults surveyed reported no leisure-time physical activity in 2015. Creating or improving access to parks, trails, and bike paths can increase physical activity, according to the Community Preventive Services Task Force. Parks Rx connects Birmingham residents with nearby parks to get them moving to improve their health.
Parks Rx promotes a unique patient-provider relationship where providers talk with patients about how to get active and use neighborhood parks to do fun physical activities. Using Parks Rx pads (available in both Spanish and English), providers prescribe physical activity to their patients and direct them to the Parks Rx website. The website includes an interactive map where patients can search by zip code to find more than 140 local parks and green spaces for physical activity. The website also provides information on park amenities, safety, trail length, and hours of operation. To reinforce healthy living messages, brightly colored Parks Rx signs were installed at nine city parks.