Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Poster Paper: More Parks Better Health: An Assessment of Park Quality on Health

Saturday, November 14, 2015
Riverfront South/Central (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Christopher K Wyczalkowski, Georgia State University
Parks are a relatively common amenity in cities; however, cities are not equal in the amount of park and green space that they provide for their citizens. Park space in an urban setting often exists on valuable real estate and therefore could be developed to provide economic assistance to cash strapped cities.  In urbanized places where parks don’t already exist it is economically challenging to purchase land and create a park. The policy question of whether park land should be sold off or land purchased to make new parks rests largely on the ‘goodness’ of the public good amenity that parks provide. Are these ‘nice to have’ amenities that merely look good, or are these amenities ‘must haves’ because they provide a benefit to their communities? The literature suggests that better public health, arguably a ‘must have’, is one outcome of greenspaces and parks (de Vries, et al, 2003; Lee and Maheswaran, 2010; Groenewegen et al., 2012). 

The potential mechanisms by which parks might affect health fall into two general categories; health effects of parks can be depicted as physical or mental (sometimes termed psychological) (Lee and Maheswaran, 2010). Parks provide direct access to walking, running, and biking paths, whereas greenspace simply provides a more pleasant environment which may entice outdoor physical activity.  Greenspace is also associated with psychological health outcomes, such as positive moods and increased abilities to concentrate (de Vries, et al, 2003), and social health through community contact (Baur, Gomes, and Tynon, 2013). It is not clear whether the effects ascribed to greenspace also hold for parks, and vice versa.

The present study attempts to establish a correlation between health and parks and has several advantages over past research. Parks are also not created equal, the accessibility, quality, and quantity matters (Lee and Maheswaran, 2010). Therefore, localized studies cannot be generalizable; however, at the city level of analysis the variability of parks within a city is captured. This study uses a regression to test the effect of parks on health outcomes across major US cities. The key finding is that the quantity and quality of park space is correlated with a reduction in days of self-reported poor physical health.


Baur, J. W., Gomez, E., & Tynon, J. F. (2013). Urban nature parks and neighborhood social health in Portland, OR. Journal of Park Recreation Administration 31(4), 23-44.

De Vries, S., Verheij, R.A., Groenewegen, P. P., & Spreeuwenberg, P. (2003). Natural environments – healthy environments? An exploratory analysis of the relationship between greenspace and health. Environment and Planning A, 35, 1717 – 1731.

Groenewegen, P.P. , van den Berg, A.E., Maas, J. , Verheij , R.A., & de Vries, S. (2012)

Is a Green Residential Environment Better for Health? If So, Why?, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 102:5,996-1003

Lee, A.C., & Maheswaran, R. (2010). The health benefits of urban green spaces: a review of the evidence. Journal of Public Health, 33(2), 212-222.