Public Lands For the Public's Health
Richard A. Goodman
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Marc L. Miller
University of Arizona - James E. Rogers College of Law
Environmental Law Reporter, Forthcoming
Cardiovascular diseases, epidemic obesity, and other major public health problems in the United States are strongly associated with physical inactivity and other lifestyle-related risk factors. While efforts to increase leisure-time physical activity have emphasized activities centered around the home and neighborhood, improving public health may require additional, innovative approaches. Local and state governments and non-governmental organizations should consider new strategies and programs to encourage physical activity.
The systems of public parks operated by state governments could serve as a significant resource for programs to improve public health. This paper examines the state park system in the state of Georgia, and its potential for contributing to improved health. In particular, the paper addresses policy and legal considerations in Georgia relevant to the state park system and its compatibility with health goals.
We conclude that state park systems in general, and Georgia's state park system in particular, could develop policies to adapt and promote some park facilities for the purpose of improving personal and public health. This conclusion derives from consideration of scientific evidence, policy needs, and the present scope of state constitutional and statutory authorities. In Georgia, the development and implementation of such policies seems wholly consistent with the scope and intent of relevant legal provisions.
Indeed, one surprising aspect of this inquiry is that Georgia park officials do not seem to recognize that this authority exists, or the possibilities for constructive new policies. The barriers to such policies appear to come from bureaucratic culture and traditional boundaries on thinking rather than legal impediments. Given the ample legal authority and strong policy arguments in favor of promoting health in state parks, state and local government agencies and other interested organizations should immediately consider approaches to maximizing the public health benefits of state parks.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 18Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: January 8, 2003
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