Louisville receives $180k to increase equitable access to outdoor recreation for children and families 

August 04, 2022

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (August 4, 2022) — Louisville is continuing its efforts to build a healthier city by reducing barriers to nature, in part, through a $180,000 grant. The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) selected 14 community partnerships and coalitions across the country to receive funds to participate in year two of the Improving Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) – Getting Further Faster pilot initiative.

 “This is yet another initiative that reflects all three of my administration’s main goals – to become a community of lifelong learning, a healthier city and an even more compassionate city,” Mayor Greg Fischer said. “Getting outside helps our children and their families become healthier, and nature presents so many opportunities for lifelong learning. It also touches our compassion goal by reflecting our community’s belief that we are only successful when everyone has opportunities to grow, to learn and to play.” 

 Social determinants of health are conditions in the environment in which people are born, live, work, play, worship and age that affect a wide range of health and quality-of-life outcomes. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), access to nature and greenspace have an abundance of positive effects on mental and physical health. However, an analysis by the Trust for Public Land has shown that neighborhoods that are predominantly people of color, including Black and Latino residents, have access to 68% less park space per person than neighborhoods that are predominantly white. The National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) acknowledges that even after the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many cities across the United States had policies and practices for racial segregation of parks and recreational amenities, in part, creating present-day inequities.

 “We know that inequities in access to parks today have been created by racist historical policies and practices,” said T Gonzales, director of the Center for Health Equity at the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness (LMPHW). “We are excited to be part of a coalition that is seeking to increase equitable access to the outdoors.”

 The grant will help improve an existing Louisville Parks and Recreation effort, the West Louisville Outdoor Recreation Initiative (WLORI) and its associated program component Louisville is Engaging Children Outdoors (Louisville ECHO). This initiative has provided thousands of lower-income children and young adults with annual outdoor experiences such as tree planting, overnight camping and day trips to aquatic and terrestrial environments.  

 “Our promise is to help Louisville Parks and Recreation further expand programming in the coming years with design and construction of new outdoor park infrastructure, including the proposed Shawnee Outdoor Learning Center,” said Bennett Knox, executive director of Wilderness Louisville. “With this grant, we and our coalition partners demonstrate our commitment to ensuring that the initiative is sustained and that its focus on improving the built environment, environmental quality, youth engagement in the outdoors and the creation of employment pathways in the environmental field moves the needle on health equity in our community.” 

 “We’re thankful for the partnership we have with Wilderness Louisville to provide outdoor educational opportunities to children in our community,” said Margaret Brosko, acting director of Louisville Parks and Recreation. “This funding will allow us to continue our mission, which is to ensure everyone has access to fun, healthy and safe nature-based experiences, no matter what part of Louisville they live in.”

Coalition partners under this grant include:  

  • Wilderness Louisville, Inc.
  • Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness – Center for Health Equity (CHE)
  • Louisville Parks and Recreation
  • University of Louisville – Department of Sociology 
  • West Louisville Outdoor Recreation Initiative (WLORI) Resident Community Council 
  • Louisville Metro Office for Performance Improvement (OPI) 

The year-two-funded coalitions will participate in a series of evaluation, training and technical-assistance activities designed to inform the development of promising practices for improving health outcomes and health equity by addressing the five Getting Further Faster SDOH domains: built environment, community-clinical linkages, food insecurity, social connectedness and tobacco-free policy. Funded communities will be expected to participate in a more focused evaluation effort that will build on the prior year’s work. The year-two evaluation will take a deeper dive on topics, including the cost and sustainability of the partnerships’ SDOH initiatives, the specific roles health departments play in supporting partnerships’ SDOH work, collaboration with clinical delivery systems and the role partnerships play in helping to build community resilience. The evidence generated by these efforts could help inform SDOH activities in communities across the country.

 CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion awarded funds for this pilot project through the Strengthening Public Health Systems and Services Through National Partnerships (CDC-RFA-OT18-1802) cooperative agreement. The purposes of the cooperative agreement are to strengthen the nation’s public health infrastructure; ensure a competent, current, and connected public health system; and improve the delivery of the 10 essential public health services.

 The link to the evaluation report from year one can be accessed on CDC’s website here and here.

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Wilderness Louisville, Inc. is the 501(c)(3) non-profit that raises funds in support of the Louisville Parks and Recreation Department’s Natural Areas Division, based at the 6,800-acre Jefferson Memorial Forest (JMF). Wilderness Louisville’s mission is to be the champion for Louisville’s natural areas, from the nation’s largest municipally-owned deciduous urban forest, Jefferson Memorial Forest, to the ones in your backyard. Since its inception in 2013, WL has raised funds to support youth programming, land conservation, and capital facility improvement, and ecological restoration activities. Wilderness Louisville’s board is committed to promoting equitable access to the outdoors and since 2015 it has raised significant funding to sustain and grow the Louisville ECHO program and enhance park infrastructure associated with the West Louisville Outdoor Recreation Initiative. Find out more at www.wildernesslouisville.org. Facebook: www.facebook.com/wildernesslouisville/



Louisville Parks and Recreation, a nationally accredited parks and recreation agency, manages 120 parks and six parkways on more than 13,000 acres of land and operates recreation programs for area residents of all ages and abilities. Since taking office in 2011, Mayor Greg Fischer has been committed to ensuring equity in parks and recreation, including the start of the West Louisville Outdoor Recreation Initiative, the Louisville’s Engaging Children Outdoors (ECHO) programming and most recently, becoming the third city in the country to launch an equity review of all Metro-owned parks and facilities. https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/PTQhC68xGZuQpqp8H1HkGH?domain=bestparksever.com



Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness (LMPHW) is a nationally accredited, independent, academic health department committed to achieving health equity and improving the health and well-being of all Louisville residents and visitors. 



The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) is the national nonprofit organization representing public health agencies in the United States, the U.S. Territories, and the District of Columbia, and over 100,000 public health professionals these agencies employ. ASTHO members, the chief health officials of these jurisdictions, formulate and influence sound public health policy and ensure excellence in state-based public health practice. ASTHO's primary function is to track, evaluate, and advise members on the impact and formation of public or private health policy which may affect them and to provide them with guidance and technical assistance on improving the nation's health. For more information, please visit www.astho.org 



The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) represents the nation’s nearly 3,000 local health departments. These city, county, metropolitan, district, and tribal departments work every day to protect and promote health and well-being for all people in their communities. For more information about NACCHO, please visit www.naccho.org.


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