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IU Bloomington to Host First National Symposium on Parks and Recreation in Public Health

The vital role that parks and recreation play in promoting and improving national public health will be the centerpiece of the first National Symposium on Parks and Recreation in Public Health taking place Feb. 10 to 12 at Indiana University in Bloomington.

Hosted by the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington, the symposium will focus on the nation’s public parks and recreation agencies and organizations and their role as essential partners in combating some of the most complicated challenges our country faces: poor nutrition, hunger, obesity and physical inactivity.

“Through facilities, outdoor settings and services provided, public parks and recreation agencies support good health for people of all abilities, ages, socio-economic backgrounds and ethnicities,” said Dr. Mohammad Torabi, Dean and Chancellor’s Professor at the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington. “The vital and dynamic spaces these organizations develop and maintain are the gateways to a healthier America, and they ensure that communities are truly livable.”

The symposium, to be hosted in the Indiana Memorial Union, will feature two keynote speakers who are national leaders in research and community service.

  • Dr. Allen Heinemann is a professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University. He works as a national advocate for the role of recreation as an important component to health.


  • Ms. Jayne Miller serves as the superintendent of the nationally renowned Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. The Minneapolis park system was recognized by the Trust for Public Land in 2013 and 2014 as the No. 1 Urban Park System in the United States. The popularity of this park system helped Minneapolis earn a spot on Forbes’ list of 10 Healthiest Cities in the U.S.

The symposium will feature two tracks: research and practice. The research track will showcase the cutting-edge research related to the impact recreation has on public health. Speakers from across the country will assess a variety of recreational mediums and their impact on health topics such as obesity, lifestyle habits and social engagement.

The practice track will showcase programs — both large and small — that have successfully implemented recreation opportunities promoting public health and providing a solid foundation to the well-being of a community.

“We are proud to be at the forefront, as a school of public health, in the discussion of how current public health problems can be tackled through innovative and bold approaches that involved parks and recreation,” said Dr. Doug Knapp, professor and symposium organizer. “We are equally proud to be the first in the nation to offer an event that pulls together the research and innovative programs that use parks and recreation to promote public health.”

A call for proposals will open Sept. 14, and registration for the symposium will begin Nov. 16. Early-bird registration will be $90 for students and $200 for non-students. More information is available online or by emailingnatsym@indiana.edu.