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The Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute (CFLRI) and the Canadian Parks and Recreation Association (CPRA) have partnered to champion the Measuring Impact of SPAR initiative to provide innovative new research, tools and resources that demonstrate the multifaceted impact and value of the SPAR sector.

SPAR is an essential sector providing the building blocks for a healthier, happier, sustainable, and more resilient Canada, critical to shaping our nation’s future. Decision makers need research and evidence to make sound proposals when preparing, evaluating, and debating policies, programs and other initiatives. This initiative aims to quantify the impacts that SPAR investments can have on the social, health, economic and environmental wellbeing of Canadian communities. Decision makers at all levels of government can see evidence of significant positive returns through strategic SPAR investment.

The Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute (CFLRI) specializes in researching physical activity and lifestyle choices to improve the health of Canadians. The fundamental objective of the CFLRI is to provide credible data for policy- and decision-makers, practitioners and researchers through knowledge creation, translation, and exchange to inform and affect evidence-based policy and practice across Canada.

The Canadian Parks and Recreation Association (CPRA) champions the essential role that parks and recreational activities play in fostering healthier, vibrant communities across Canada. CPRA is dedicated to promoting the benefits of recreational spaces and programs, advocating for sustainable practices, and providing leadership in public policy development. Efforts are centered on enhancing quality of life for all Canadians through accessible, diverse, and well-maintained parks and recreation facilities.

Research Methods

  • Until now, economic assessments on the impact of SPAR in Canada, have been limited, dated or disparate.
  • CFLRI and CPRA utilized a comprehensive framework of 77 indicators across social, health, economic, and environmental pillars, derived from various national and international sources, literature, and internal sources.
  • The project involved a detailed analysis and synthesis of data, including monetary conversions by a contracted firm (Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton). A rigorous validation process ensured the integrity and accuracy of the data and calculations.
  • The research initiative is designed to incorporate new data over time, ensuring ongoing relevance and accuracy.
  • There are noted challenges with data gaps, especially in healthcare and environmental costs, leading to the use of estimation techniques for a more accurate reflection of the current context.
    • For example, health care cost analysis relied on the 2010 Economic Burden of Illness in Canada (EBIC) tool, which excludes indirect costs like wages lost due to disability. For this reason, the true health costs associated with physical inactivity are likely quite underestimated.
  • A more detailed description of the methodology and references is available in the full report.

How to Use the Research

Inform policy and programming

Utilize the research to shape policy and program development and strategic planning. Emphasize SPAR’s vital role in enhancing public health, climate resilience, urban development and community building.

Enhance public health initiatives

Leverage findings to support public health initiatives and community health programs, demonstrating the significant cost savings and wellness benefits linked to increased SPAR investment.

Justify increased SPAR budget allocations

Having data available supporting linkages between SPAR investment and significant social, health, economic and environmental impacts, provide opportunities for joint planning and action on innovative funding mechanisms and investments that have multi-faceted positive impacts at a local and national scale.

Maximize economic and social benefits

Highlight the economic returns and social cohesion benefits of SPAR to make the case for public and private investment, including alignment with Canada’s national goals and private sector Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives (e.g., volunteer days, corporate donation matching programs).

Drive engagement and advocacy

Community and business leaders can use this research to promote and advocate for more SPAR activities, emphasizing its positive impact on physical and mental health and community resiliency.