WASHINGTON, D.C.—June 14, 2023—While access to greenspace is essential for improving health and well-being, millions of people across the U.S.—including over 20 million children—lack access to nearby parks. A new report by CityHealth, an initiative of the de Beaumont Foundation and Kaiser Permanente, and Trust for Public Land (TPL) serves as a roadmap for city leaders to tap into greenspace to help improve health outcomes throughout communities by tackling the equity divide that has existed for years. The report includes research highlighting disparities in greenspace access, provides case studies of cities leading in equitable greenspace investments, and outlines policy solutions that can ensure that all families across the country have access to public land and nature.
“Greenspaces are integral components of urban environments as they provide numerous health benefits. Unfortunately, far too often greenspaces are inequitably distributed, leaving millions of residents—especially in communities of color—without available or accessible spaces to enjoy,” said Katrina Forrest, JD, co-executive director of CityHealth. “Disinvestments lead to critical disparities. In contrast, equitable Greenspace policies provide a significant opportunity for city leaders to invest in creating a healthier, greener future for all communities.”
Research suggests that proximity to parks and greenspaces is correlated with greater levels of physical activity. In a recent literature review, physical activity was associated with a 13% reduction in mortality rates among over 27,000 study participants, both with and without existing medical conditions. In addition, numerous studies have found that exposure to nature has been associated with protective effects on depression, including among participants living in lower socioeconomic areas.
“Access to greenspace not only promotes greater levels of physical activity and improved mental and physical health, but it also impacts environment-related health outcomes on communities by mitigating the effects of air pollution and heat exposures, aiding stormwater absorption and more,” said Catherine D. Patterson, MPP, co-executive director of CityHealth. “There is this interconnection between physical health, environmental health and mental health that influences overall wellness. Greenspace policies truly play a unique role in this intersection, as they can address a myriad of issues and help us achieve healthier lives.”
The report specifically explores CityHealth’s Greenspace policy, which is part of its package of policy solutions that cities can use to help everyone in their communities have access to a safe place to live, a healthy body and mind, and a thriving environment. In CityHealth’s 2022 policy assessment, 20 cities earned gold, 13 earned silver and 14 earned bronze individual medals for their Greenspace policies. You can learn more about CityHealth’s Greenspace policy criteria and city medals here.
The report also provides examples of case studies across the country—from Portland, Oregon; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Baltimore, Maryland—that showcase how cities can use planning and policy to increase greenspace equity.
“Communities across the country are doing innovative work to implement policy solutions that prioritize park and greenspace equity,” said Bianca Shulaker, Parks Initiative lead and senior director of the 10-Minute Walk Program at TPL. “City leaders are recognizing that parks and greenspaces impact physical and mental health, as well as environmental resiliency. They are more than an amenity—they are critical infrastructure, and cities are taking steps to make sure all residents have access to their benefits.”
WEBINAR: Hear from experts about greenspace policy solutions and how cities are taking action at a webinar presented by CityHealth and Trust for Public Land on June 21, 2023 from 2:00pm to 3:00pm ET. The webinar will feature local park champions who have prioritized park policy as a strategy to close gaps in park access and improve health equity. Sign up here.
Learn more about CityHealth’s Greenspace policy and read the featured case studies by downloading the report here.
CityHealth, an initiative of the de Beaumont Foundation and Kaiser Permanente, works to advance a package of tried and tested policy solutions to ensure all people in our largest cities have access to healthy choices. Together with visionary city leaders, CityHealth helps cities adopt policies that can make their communities healthy and resolve critical health disparities—now and decades down the road. Learn more at cityhealth.org.
Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit that works to connect everyone to the benefits and joys of the outdoors. Trust for Public Land’s 10-Minute Walk program engages city leaders to close the park equity divide so that every resident has access to a quality park or green space within a 10-minute walk of home. The 10-Minute Walk program calls on U.S. mayors and policymakers to address cities’ most pressing needs around health, resilience, environmental protection, economic development, and community building through parks, and provides the resources needed to create and support park systems that drive equitable, healthy, thriving communities. Learn more at 10minutewalk.org.