The Toolkit for HAP E cover jpg

New Resource for Local Health Departments Features Interventions Across Health, Arts, Parks, and Equity

Jul 28, 2020 | Andrea Grenadier

With increasing use of public lands during COVID-19 pandemic, the HAP-E Toolkit highlights ways to use arts and parks to advance community health and wellness.

Washington, DC, July 29, 2020 The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), the voice of the country’s nearly 3,000 local health departments, announced the launch of The Toolkit for Health, Arts, Parks, and Equity (HAP-E) in partnership with the Trust for Public Land (TPL). This new resource, which is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), will assist local health departments in using interventions that incorporate arts and parks to improve health and equity. This is particularly timely as individuals and families across the country make increasing use of public outdoor spaces due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Across the United States, mounting evidence shows that arts-based interventions in community spaces can influence the social determinants of health to support positive community health outcomes. Arts and culture – and the presence of parks and green spaces – can mend collective trauma, improve social isolation and exclusion, address mental health, and reduce certain chronic diseases, as well as reduce heat islands.

Both arts and culture and parks and green space help fulfill needs and benefits that go beyond direct exposure. Whether it be a series of nighttime cultural festivals in Los Angeles parks that reduce violent crime or community-made murals in Philadelphia that work to destigmatize mental health conditions and addiction, health experts and artists are employing creative methods to engage communities through arts and culture, and doing so in public spaces to create positive health outcomes.

In 2018, TPL and NACCHO began a two-year project, Creative Parks, Healthy Communities, funded by the NEA Our Town grant program. The project focused on coordinating a steering committee of arts, health, and parks subject matter experts to guide the work, conducting interviews with local health departments on public health interventions, and developing The Toolkit for HAP-E. The Toolkit has three sections; the first section includes a theory of change and literature review on how interventions involving arts and parks can improve health outcomes. The second section includes nine guiding principles for implementing HAP-E interventions, and the third section provides a series of seven case studies illustrating how HAP-E interventions have successfully been implemented across the country in urban and rural communities.

According to NACCHO’s 2016 National Profile of Local Health Departments, 76% of local health departments already actively partner with their local parks and recreation departments through exchanging information, regularly scheduled meetings, written agreements, or sharing resources. With this toolkit, NACCHO hopes to promote additional partnerships among local health departments, parks and recreation departments, and local artists or cultural heritage agencies to improve the health and well-being of residents.

For more information on using arts and parks or public space to improve health, access The Toolkit for HAP-E here. You can also learn more about NACCHO’s work on The Toolkit for HAP-E in this blog post or access NACCHO’s Healthy Community Design webpage.


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