Cape Cod National Seashore and Cape Cod Healthcare Forge New Health Project

Cape Cod National Seashore Superintendent George Price announces "Health Parks, Healthy People" Initiative in Eastham Monday

Cape Cod National Seashore Superintendent George Price announces the “Healthy Parks, Healthy People” Initiative in Eastham Monday

EASTHAM – The Cape Cod National Seashore and Cape Cod Healthcare are teaming up in a new healthier living initiative.

“Healthy Parks, Healthy People,” a walking program to promote health and wellness, was launched Monday at the Salt Pond Visitors Center in Eastham.

Beginning July 6, Cape Cod Healthcare physicians, nurses and athletic trainers will work in tandem with park rangers to help visitors and locals increase movement through enjoyment of the outdoors.

During the summer and into October, CCHC staff will be on location at the Salt Pond Visitors Center and two rotating mobile camps at the park.

Visitors will learn about the five trails selected for walks and receive maps and guides. Medical staff will be available to give blood pressure readings as well as height, weight and body mass index measured by registered medical personnel.

Those taking part in the program will get a passport to record their walking performances and personal readings.

“We are blessed on Cape Cod to have this beautiful park in our backyard, and we are very excited to partner with the National Seashore on this innovative new program,” said Cape Cod Healthcare President and CEO Michael Lauf.

Cape Cod National Seashore Superintendent George Price said the initiative was a multi-year commitment that could become a model for others around the country.

“What better place than Cape Cod to bring together the beauty of our natural surroundings and the expertise of our local healthcare system for the purposes of making our community healthier,” Price said during Monday’s launch of the project.

According to federal studies, half of Americans report that they do not engage in the U.S. Surgeon General’s recommended 30 minutes of daily exercise most days of the week, while chronic disease accounts for 70 percent of all deaths in the U.S.

View from the Salt Pond Visitors Center in Eastham

View from the Salt Pond Visitors Center in Eastham

“We have a crisis in this country in healthcare that is draining the economy; especially the epidemic of obesity and diabetes,” said Dr. Elisa Thompson, a Cape Cod Hospital cardiologist and medical director of the cardiac rehab unit at Cape Cod Hospital.

Dr. Thompson will serve as medical director for the Healthy Parks, Healthy People Initiative.

Physicians on Cape Cod will be encouraged to write walking “prescriptions” to their patients to take part in the new effort, and will be given specially designed prescription pads.

“Exercise has a profound effect on blood pressure, glucose and cholesterol,” said Dr. Thompson.

Mental and spiritual well-being will also be part of the HPHP. Cape Cod National Seashore Chief of Interpretation and Cultural Resources Sue Moynihan will work with volunteers to educate walkers about how to tune out stress in the restorative aspects of being outdoors.

Also involved in the initiative are students in the Sports Management program at Johnson & Wales University in Providence. They’ve become familiar with the trails and have worked to develop an expanded list of programs, such as night walks, senior hikes and family hikes.

Veterans and their families will also be welcomed to take part in the health initiative. Seashore and CCHC staff are working with the Hyannis Vet Center, the Cape and Islands Veterans Outreach Center, the Grace Veterans Program, and the Providence VA, to explore ways for veterans to take part in the daily program, as well as special activities.

Health Parks, Healthy People is a movement adopted by the National Park Service as part of its centennial anniversary in 2016. Other similar programs are in place in Virginia and Washington D.C. 

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