All children need safe places to play and get exercise in their communities in order to grow and develop into healthy adults. However, many children do not have safe opportunities to engage in physical activity. In Kentucky, only 49 percent of children live in neighborhoods with recreation centers, community centers, or Boys’/Girls’ Clubs compared to 65 percent of children nationally. In Kentucky in 2009, there were 7.8 recreational facilities per 100,000 Kentuckians. Recreational facilities foster physical activity, which helps children maintain a healthy weight and reduces the burden that diseases such as diabetes and heart disease can have on children’s health. Opportunities for physical activity in communities are vital in helping parents maintain a healthy weight as well. Research indicates that children with overweight parents are at a much higher risk of being overweight than children with parents who are not overweight.

Kentucky communities can take action to increase access to indoor recreational facilities by supporting shared-use agreements. Shared-use is when school officials allow school facilities to be used by community members or community agencies such as YMCAs during non-school hours for recreational activities. Many schools in Kentucky already engage in shared-use agreements, yet Senate Bill 110 helps encourage more schools to share their facilities with the community. Senate Bill 110 clarifies an existing Kentucky law to ensure that school officials know they will not be held responsible if someone gets hurt on school property during non-school hours. While more options for indoor recreation are important, families and children need safe outdoor recreation and active transportation access as well. In the current legislative session, Senate Bill 133 calls for the implementation of Complete Streets practices, which involves the consideration of safe streets for all users of the state’s transportation system, thereby promoting more walking and biking among residents. Complete Streets policies would create additional safe environments for Kentuckians to engage in outdoor physical activities.

For more information on this Kentucky KIDS COUNT indicator view the 2011 County Data Book here.

Kentucky Youth Advocates thanks the KIDS COUNT Data Sponsor AARP Kentucky for their support of this indicator.