It is no secret that SC consistently ranks as one of the most obese states in the nation, with rates higher for minorities and those living in rural communities. Best practice for obesity prevention is to increase opportunities for safe places to be physically active through policy, systems and environmental change strategies. For people to be physically active, they must have access to safe, affordable and convenient places to do so. Many low income/underserved communities in South Carolina do not have adequate recreational facilities, parks, playgrounds, courts, fields and trails. Thus, schools and the recreation facilities on school property can provide much needed opportunities for play, sport and recreation.
Local schools have a variety of outdoor recreational facilities—playgrounds, fields, courts and tracks—where people can engage in physical activity. Being intentional about making schools’ outdoor recreational facilities available for communities to use is an effective, affordable way to promote and support physical activity among citizens. The South Carolina School Boards Association (SCSBA), the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC), and Eat Smart Move More South Carolina (ESMMSC) is in full support of schools and school districts allowing the community free access to schools outdoor recreational facilities.
We encourage all school districts to adopt the open community use model policy to provide free access to the schools’ outdoor recreational facilities. SCDHEC and ESMMSC have developed an open community use playbook, Breaking Physical Activity Barriers Through Open Community Use. The playbook provides guidance to school administrators, teachers and community members interested in adopting and implementing the strategy to increase physical activity. To better understand the current status of open community use, DHEC assessed and published The Status of Open Community Use in South Carolina 2015.
We hope to create communities where being physically active is not only easier but also safe and fun. In years to come, we hope to see more school districts embrace the SCSBA’s open community use model policy and more schools practicing and promoting open community use. For more information about the open community use, please contact Sabrina Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org.