At Valley Children’s Healthcare, our mission is to provide high-quality, comprehensive health-care services to children, regardless of their ability to pay, and to continuously improve the health and well-being of children. Our physicians will be the first to tell you that the latter portion of our mission relies heavily on aspects of health care taking place outside the walls of our hospital. In an unprecedented move, our organization has endorsed a local, political measure — Measure P — because we care deeply about the children of our city and we are confident the passage of this measure will result in healthier children.
Our decision to endorse Measure P isn’t just a well-meaning, hopeful approach to solve a major problem in our city. It is based on years of research underscoring the direct link between accessibility of parks to improved health. The results of these studies are undeniable: When kids have access to the outdoors — to neighborhood parks and green space — they recover and heal more quickly. Their emotional well-being is stronger and they are more resilient in dealing with challenges. Children who live near safe, clean, usable parks are less likely to develop obesity problems and less likely to suffer from diabetes. It is becoming more common for physicians to “prescribe” physical activity in community parks to children in their care. In short, access to parks is a crucial component of healthier children — who then have a better chance to grow up to be healthier adults.
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Valley Children’s Healthcare is not alone in its endorsement of Measure P. In fact, Saint Agnes Medical Center, Fresno Madera Medical Society, our regional chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Children's Hospital Association of California (CCHA), representing eight children’s hospitals around the state, all endorse Measure P. Physicians, nurses, and medical leaders in Fresno and many beyond our city limits are all voicing a resounding “Yes on P.”
Proponents of Measure P are undisputed on the need for better parks here in our city. We can’t expect Fresno families to utilize our city’s parks when 80 percent of them are in fair or poor condition. Locked restrooms, deteriorating playground equipment, and unsafe conditions have become commonplace for too many of our patients and their families. How can we prescribe a walk in the park when many of the families we serve don’t have a usable park in their neighborhood?
Measure P outlines a precise plan to improve these exact problems and transform our parks system throughout Fresno. On Tuesday, we have an opportunity to improve our city’s parks, build new parks where they are needed the most, blaze 80 miles of new trails, and create recreational programs for our youth. Remember, if Measure P passes, not a dime of funding will be taken away from funding for police and fire, but it will instead create a dedicated source of local funding for park improvements and maintenance for the next 30 years. The measure also includes citizen oversight, fiscal accountability, and project equitability across all neighborhoods based on the city’s unanimously adopted parks master plan.
Let me end with this: I am a lifelong resident of Fresno. I went to college here, raised my family here, and have worked at Valley Children’s for 25 years, and Measure P matters to me from all those perspectives. But it also has occurred to me that there may be more to Measure P than simply improving our parks.
Great cities have several things in common. They invest in children — and in neighborhood parks, zoos and museums where kids live, learn and play. Great cities have great public spaces. They invest in themselves, knowing that a reliance on Sacramento or Washington, D.C — or doing what “we have always done” — will fall short. Great communities have the ability to operate from a “both/and” perspective rather than an “either/or” point of view.
Measure P is Fresno’s chance to elevate our community and, by way of our own success, elevate the entire region. It is possible for us to have great parks and great public safety. It does not have to be one or the other. Our children deserve both and they need both to thrive. Great communities are not “zero sum” propositions.
Working together, our community and its leaders can come together around the one interest we all share — ensuring that Fresno is a great place to live for our kids.
Please join me in voting yes on Measure P.
Todd Suntrapak is the president and CEO of Valley Children’s Healthcare