Healthy Parks, Healthy Peo­ple to step up

Times-Record - - Front Page - By DUSTIN HOLT dholt@ches­pub.com

— New for the Caro­line County this sum­mer, Mary­land State Parks and Mar yland Health De­part­ment have ex­panded its Healthy Parks, Healthy Peo­ple pro­gram to Marti­nak State Park and Tuck­a­hoe State Park.

The pro­gram pro­vides free ac­tiv­i­ties at the park for com­mu­nity mem­bers who re­ceive a pre­scrip­tion through their doc­tor to go out and ex­er­cise. Started in 2016 at Rocky Gap State Park, the pro­gram ex­panded to the East­ern Shore this year with Caro­line County picked as the first shore lo­ca­tion.

The two Caro­line parks have part­nered with the Caro­line County Health De­part­ment, Caro­line Re­cre­ation and Parks, YMCA of the Ch­e­sa­peake, Chop­tank Com­mu­nity Health, Shore Re­gional Health and Ad­kins Ar­bore­tum to ad­min­is­ter the pro­gram for com­mu­nity mem­bers.

The pro­gram works when res­i­dents visit their doc­tors, and the doc­tors write them a pre­scrip­tion to visit Marti­nak and Tuck­a­hoe for out­door ac­tiv­i­ties. The parks of­fer a host a free ac­tiv­i­ties for all ages as part of the pro­gram.

Ac­tiv­i­ties in the Healthy Parks, Healthy Peo­ple pro­gram in­clude leisure bike rides, bike work­shops, disc golf, fam­ily and se­nior walks, lunch time walks, dog walks, na­ture walks, sun­rise yoga, fam­ily yoga, beach vol­ley­ball, boot camp, morn­ing stretch, ca­noe­ing and kayak­ing.

“The idea is to get peo­ple out into the parks be­cause it is bet­ter for their health,” said Marti­nak and Tuck­a­hoe parks Nat­u­ral­ist Karen Gian­ninoto. “We are en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to do some healthy walk­ing and hik­ing and kayak­ing and all that good stuff. The health de­part­ment has been in­stru­men­tal in get­ting the word out through the doc­tors and health de­part­ment staff.

“When some­one goes to the doc­tor, they are ac­tu­ally go­ing to re­ceive a pre­scrip­tion to ex­er­cise,” she said. “They will bring their pre­scrip­tion to the park, and we’ll lead the ac­tiv­i­ties for them. All the ac­tiv­i­ties in the Healthy Parks, Healthy Peo­ple pro­gram are guided. Then, we will sign off their pre­scrip­tion card, and they will take it back to the doc­tor. The doc­tor then can track how the ex­er­cise is ben­e­fit­ing their health.”

Fund­ing for the pro­gram comes from the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol through the Chronic Dis­ease Prevention Grant. The state plans to

ex­pand the pro­gram to the Har­riet Tub­man Un­der­ground Rail­road State Park in Dorch­ester County later this year, and then to the en­tire state for 2018.

“It is a re­ally cool pro­gram,” Gian­ninoto said. “I’m find­ing most of the peo­ple who are com­ing are se­niors, and they have never been to the parks or got­ten out of their car to ex­plore the parks and un­der­stand what habi­tats and di­ver­sity we have in our parks. That has been re­ally ex­cit­ing for me as a nat­u­ral­ist to in­tro­duce peo­ple to the parks. We are think­ing not only phys­i­cal body, but also your mind, which needs a chance to re­lax.”

Caro­line County Health De­part­ment Deputy Health Of­fi­cer Laura Pa­trick said the ac­tiv­i­ties have been tai­lored for all ages with a per­son’s med­i­cal his­tory in mind. She said the fam­ily and se­nior walks are guided, which gives peo­ple a chance to ex­plore the parks with neigh­bors rather than alone.

“For some peo­ple, we have to watch what kinds of ex­er­cise they do based on their med­i­cal his­tor y,” she said. “The doc­tors can rec­om­mend cer­tain ac­tiv­i­ties that will help them. Not every­one may be able to do vol­ley­ball, so we have ac­tiv­i­ties such as the se­nior walks, bike rides and yoga avail­able in the pro­gram.” Pa­trick said pro­gram is able to hap­pen through the com­mu­nity part­ner­ships formed with the health de­part­ment and state parks.

“We are blessed in Caro­line County with so many great or­ga­ni­za­tions and busi­nesses that work very well to­gether,” she said “We would not be able to do this pro­gram with­out all the great partners we have.

“We went to Chop­tank Com­mu­nity Health and they were on board from the start,” she said. “Chop­tank Com­mu­nity Health has been a great part­ner, and they see 90 per­cent of our pa­tients in the county. Shore Re­gional Health also has part­nered with us on the pro­gram, and they do great things for us in the com­mu­nity. All the key play­ers in health are in­volved, and that means a lot to the trust for the peo­ple in Caro­line County when they know all of us are to­gether and say­ing the same mes­sage about ex­er­cise.”

For more in­for­ma­tion on the Healthy Parks, Healthy Peo­ple Pro­gram, visit Marti­nak State Park at www.dnr2.mary­land.gov/pub­li­clands/Pages/east­ern/marti­nak.aspx or Tuck­a­hoe State Park at www.dnr2.mary­land.gov/ pub­li­clands/Pages/east­ern/tuck­a­hoe. aspx. Also the parks can be reached by phone by call­ing 410-820-1668.

PHOTO BY DUSTIN HOLT

One of the ac­tiv­i­ties a part of the Healthy Parks, Healthy Peo­ple pro­gram at Marti­nak State Park is Sun­rise Yoga held at 7:15 a.m. each Mon­day in July.

The Healthy Parks, Healthy Peo­ple pro­gram at Marti­nak and Tuck­a­hoe state parks in­cludes bike rides through the parks.

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