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PLA promotes 10 ideas for a more active Australia

PLA promotes 10 ideas for a more active Australia
June 8, 2016

Parks and Leisure Australia has highlighted key issues relating to urban design and active recreation, participating in the Liveable Cities workshop in Canberra and meeting with Federal opposition health spokesperson Catherine King to provide input to Labor’s national health strategy. 

Parks and Leisure Australia Chief Executive Mark Band advises “as a consequence, the '10 Great Ideas for an Active Australia' policy platform was developed and will be used to help push the benefits of parks and leisure and its alignment with the national health agenda.”

Pulling together a range of activity, planning and wellness initiatives from Australia and around the world, Parks and Leisure Australia’s 10 Great Ideas for an Active Australia are: 

1. Active and Healthy Economy- Jobs investment
No debate about driving economic growth and jobs is complete without hearing the mantra that we need to ‘build more roads’. When the primary reason for building a road is to stimulate the economy it may not be the best investment we can make for the future. A recent study in Baltimore, USA, found investments in walking and cycling infrastructure generated between 11 and 14 jobs per $1 million, whereas road infrastructure only generated around seven jobs per $1 million.

Investing in active living is good for the economy, good for the environment (reduced greenhouse gases by encouraging people to walk/ cycle not drive) and good for health (reduced incidence of chronic diseases resulting in reduced direct/indirect cost to the economy).

2. Focus on physical activity not the weight loss industry
There is ample evidence that indicates fit, overweight people have better health outcomes than unfit, normal weight individuals. Obesity should continue to be targeted, but public health messages should focus more on enabling people to lead healthier, more active lives. 

Local government has a critical role to play in this, from ensuring that urban design enables people to walk/ cycle to work or leisure destinations (not force them into cars) to providing the facilities and open spaces that enable people to lead active lives (eg pools, parks, paths, leisure centres). 

3. Health Investment Dividend
Similar to ‘health in all policy’ initiatives- we need to start linking sport and recreation funding, infrastructure investment and other funding programs to Health Investment Dividends. Eligible projects should be able to demonstrate how the investment will return savings in future health costs. This approach could expand as there is a lot of research (especially in Canada and the UK) about how investment in parks, sport and recreation reduces health and social malaise (policing costs) and helps with stimulating local economies.

Local Government partnerships are the most obvious focus for this approach as they are the main providers of the infrastructure, programs and the key supporters of community level sport. Sport England has developed sophisticated modelling that values investment in sporting facilities in terms of economic, social, health and other outcomes. This modelling is being used by local governments to secure investment from the national government.

4. The Little Green Pill: A focus on prescription exercise and outdoor activity
Incorporate preventative health costs into the mainstream health system so that wellness is funded and Departments of Health move away from the Departments of Sickness paradigm. 

Consider the following:

• Scotland’s Green-exercise partnership model is successful and could be applied here.
• People in Parks Foundation has a GP Green Referrals program operating in Victoria (Active in Parks).
• Medicare rebates should be considered for green exercise/ physical activity program participation costs.
• Support programs to assist those with mobility, weight and mental health issues (acting as barriers) to re-integrate incidental exercise and physical activity into their lives.

5. Be Innovative with old Infrastructure. 
There are fantastic untapped opportunities to retrofit old, decommissioned rail (or road) corridors into walking/ cycling tracks. 

Built at a gradient that facilitates walking and cycling, many of these disused old rail lines go through some of the most scenic parts of Australia’s hinterland. 

Their conversion to active trails will not just help to get more people more active, they will spawn economic activity as art, craft, accommodation and old country pubs emerge to service the growing market of cashed up baby boomers and other generations who want more active, short stay, experiential breaks. Federal Government assistance with planning and building and operating can help overcome many perceived barriers around of who manages and who maintains. 

6. Move well: Don’t just fund roads - fund ‘Moving Well’ outcomes
Fund bikeways and pathways and bike parking not car parking. Surveys for local government sport and recreation plans consistently identify demands for more, better connected, better lit walk and cycle paths.

Smart programs should only fund roads that have active transport / cycling/ walking infrastructure built in- all new funding should meet this criteria. It is far more expensive to retrofit active transport networks rather than incorporating them in the first place. 

Funding a Moving Well project could also focus on the low cost elements that make active transport possible and enjoyable such as: safe crossing points; signage and wayfinding; lighting; and place making.

7. Black to Green
Take back space for people and fund projects that decommission roads and ‘car corridors’ and turn them into active transport corridors and linear parklands.

8. Invest in Place Making Projects
Making public spaces, parks, malls, riversides, pathways and open spaces more vibrant, more attractive and more appealing will get more people walking and spending time outdoors. Placemaking initiatives can be very low cost, temporary and highly responsive to local communities- they always result in more people using spaces and walking.

9. Technology- Bring it onside
We know there is lots of screen watching that’s stopping children and adults from being active. But there is also a lot technology can do to encourage activity.

• Facebook for exercise (eg ‘Team Up’ the Vic Health program)
• Get Health Funds Investing – Health funds should be encouraged to invest in technology and mobile apps that encourage physical activity and even reward activity by tracking steps/ activity metrics and reducing premiums or offering rewards points or similar
• Support Screen to Green- apps and software that lock out ipads and laptops until some activity is recorded. Include physical activity goals in games. Augmented reality programs that encourage outdoor activity and movement can be developed.
• Free Phone Charging- put pedal powered phone chargers in public places, airports, stations, malls etc. Encourage hotels and businesses and schools to put in pedal charger equipment. 
• Innovation Fund and Incubators- for social media, apps and other technology initiatives that get people active or make it easier for people to exercise. Maybe have a national competition.
• Mobile Phone based research- using apps linked to data bases- to track activity and sedentary times. These could be associated with free apps like Strava or Google maps etc. and collect anonymous data. This is great way to build really quick data sets and test the success or otherwise of programs and projects.

10. Urban Trails Project
A dedicated program to support the development and promotion of diverse urban trails throughout all cities. This could link to initiatives such as ‘urban rogaining’ and could develop multiple ‘products’ appealing to different market sectors.

This is not an infrastructure program- rather low cost opportunities such as mapping, signage, path documentation and marketing (packaging the opportunity), would be leveraged to add value and enable or encourage the use of urban trails.

A number of possible linkages exist with this program, such as: integration with mobile apps and urban explorer type apps; linkage with GeoCaching; social media networks; local businesses ‘sponsoring’ trails or specific routes.

Parks and Leisure Australia also stated "(our) members recognise the importance of investing in the future health of Australians by not only encouraging them to be active, but ensuring the urban environment is one which enables activity.

"We believe this is an argument of economics, investment brings returns and nowhere is the need greater than investment to reduce future costs of health. If health budgets are nly considered in the context of treating illness and injury then they will continue to grow unsustainably. 

"Parks and Leisure Australia believes new thinking is needed and all infrastructure spending and other investment should be considered in the context of the health dividend that is returned."

Images (from top): Brisbane Valley Rail Trail, exercise in the Adelaide Parklands, Melbourne's City Trail and Parks Victoria's Healthy Parks, Healthy People initiative.

5th June 2016 - LEISURE AND THE FEDERAL ELECTION

4th May 2016 - HEART FOUNDATION BACKS ACTIVE CITIES PLAN

3rd February 2016 - PARKS WEEK TO ADVOCATE FOR THE VALUE OF THE OUTDOORS

9th December 2015 - 37 COMPELLING REASONS WHY AUSTRALIA NEEDS A NATIONAL PHYSICAL ACTIVITY ACTION PLAN

7th December 2015 - PLA REVEALS ACCESSION OF KRISTEN JACKSON AS NEW PRESIDENT

1st November 2015 - VICHEALTH ANNOUNCES SIX CONCEPTS TO RECEIVE 2015 PHYSICAL ACTIVITY INNOVATION CHALLENGE FUNDING

18th February 2015 - NEW ZEALAND MOVES FORWARD WITH GREEN PRESCRIPTIONS

8th March 2012 - URBAN DESIGN CAN BOOST ACTIVITY AND HEALTH


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