As we start a debate about scrapping recreation fees there are lots of things to consider. Getting rid of the fees would cost the City $30 million per year, but the question that we need to ask is, what are we willing to spend for a better, more participatory, and healthier city? Alternately, what does it say about our city if we aren’t willing to invest in the people who live here?
We all know that having good access to recreation can improve our health. A Wellesley Institute report from 2012 linked the strong evidence that connects low-levels of physical activity with poor health – including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, mental illness, hypertension and obesity – to access to recreation.
Providing recreation programming is a city and community building initiative. The health benefits of accessible programs seem pretty obvious, but when we think about recreation as a social determinant of health, there are other key benefits.
Social cohesion is a big factor in population health. Social cohesion sounds complex, but a simpler way to think about this is community. While recreation programming may have direct correlation to our physical health in the sense of diabetes, heart disease, obesity levels, and all those ills mentioned above, community is also an important attribute of healthy populations. Sense of belonging, stronger community connections, and stronger bonds contribute to better mental health as well as physical health.
Free community recreation programs are a great way to build communities and increase physical activity.