Public Park and Recreation Managers' Experiences with Health Partnerships

Toni Liechty, Andrew J. Mowen, Laura Payne, Karla A. Henderson, Jason Bocarro, Candice Bruton, Geoffrey Godbey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: With many public health concerns on the rise (e.g.,physical inactivity and chronic disease), public health organizations are seeking to increase effectiveness and efficiency through interdisciplinary partnerships. Some research has suggested that park and recreation agencies may be ideal partners for organizations trying to promote public health; however, research exploring such partnerships is limited. The purpose of this study was to explore experiences with health partnerships from the perspective of park and recreation managers. Data collection consisted of individual semi-structured interviews with 12 managers from different public park and recreation organizations who had experience with health partnerships. Data was digitally recorded, transcribed verbatim, and analyzed thematically. Participants described a partnership process that included exploring potential partners, planning the partnership, implementing the partnership activity(ies), and evaluation. During the exploration phase, the park and recreation organizations considered a wide range of partners and approached potential partners in a variety of ways including through informal relationships and through contacting people with whom no previous relationship existed. During the planning phase, managers negotiated the details of the partnership to ensure that the goals of the organizations aligned, to establish clear expectations, to determine leadership responsibilities, and to develop relationships. During the implementation phase, participants executed the partnership activity such as a program or event. Although some challenges were mitigated by planning, some arose during this phase such as lack of time or resources, perceived inequity of workloads, and waning enthusiasm. Finally, during the evaluation phase, managers appraised both the outcomes of the partnership activity(ies) and the partnership itself. Overall, participants suggested that in the current fiscal climate health partnerships represent a viable strategy for pooling resources to increase efficiency and expand services to the community. Their advice to managers seeking to develop health partnerships included the following: 1) do not be afraid to approach a wide variety of potential partners; 2) consider using partnerships for a wide variety of initiatives;3) be prepared to convey the mutual benefits of the partnership including the contributions of park and recreation organizations such a facilities, programming expertise, positive public image, and community connections; 3) determine the mechanics of the partnership (such as leadership roles, input expectations, communication strategies, etc.) early on; and 4) consider utilizing the expertise of health partners to improve health outcome evaluation.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalThe Journal of Park and Recreation Administration
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2014


  • collaboration
  • qualitative research
  • public parks and recreation
  • partnerships
  • management
  • health


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