Bad Parks Can Mean Bad Health

Midwest
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
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Restroom in O'fallon Park. (Photo courtesy of librarian7**)

A new study says that some St. Louis residents are getting slighted when it comes to the usablity of neighborhood parks, and that may be adversely impacting their health, according to researchers from Saint Louis and Washington Universities. A story in the St. Louis Beacon reports that uneven sidewalks and outdated or broken equipment make neighborhood residents less likely to use parks. Researcher Cheryl Kelly of the School of Public Health at Saint Louis University pointed out that the lack of usability means that “people are getting less physical activity in general, which is a factor associated with health disparities, such as obesity and some chronic diseases and conditions.”

One interesting finding was that walking as an inexpensive form of exercise turned out to be much harder to do in predominantly black neighborhoods and that African Americans who wanted to walk as a form of exercise were more likely to encounter “uneven sidewalks, obstructions and physical disorder.”

Where people live and play can impact their health in less obvious ways, and some researchers began taking a closer look at the connection between disease and environment, especially as Americans began developing diabetes at younger ages, and certain racial and ethnic groups were affected more than others.  In looking beyond the clinical setting and factoring in where people lived and how that location influenced their health, researchers found that certain populations “were in an environment that fought against them doing that,” Debra Haire-Joshu of the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University told the Beacon.

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One Response to “Bad Parks Can Mean Bad Health”

  1. Naomi Sachs says:

    Frances Kuo at the University of Illinois Champagne-Urbana Landscape and Human Health Laboratory (http://lhhl.illinois.edu/index.htm) has done some remarkable work on this subject, including findings that trees and other greenery make communities safer, improve self-esteem in girls and improve grades in high school students.

    The Therapeutic Landscapes Network Blog lists several of their and related studies: http://www.healinglandscapes.org/blog/2010/05/healing-the-neighborhood-the-power-of-gardens.

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