A study comparing green space and walkability scores found that, without effective access to local parks, residents of greener neighborhoods don’t reap the health benefits.
Adding to the growing body of research about the built environment and public health, Thor Christensen describes a new study in American Heart Association News.
The study looked at two metrics assessing green space and walkability in neighborhoods to understand the relationship between them. While previous research indicates that people in neighborhoods with more green space tend to have lower heart disease risk, the new study reveals that this only holds true in neighborhoods that also have high walk scores—in other words, where residents can meaningfully access green spaces.
In fact, “When researchers looked simply at green space, they found cardiovascular diseases and risk factors were actually more common in people living in neighborhoods with a high NatureScore, compared with those living in less green neighborhoods.” Areas with the highest NatureScore and high walk scores showed a 9 percent lower chance of cardiovascular disease risk factors.
This leads to a logical conclusion: “To maximize the benefits of green space, people have to interact with nature,” says Dr. Omar Mohamed Makram. According to Dr. Ray Yeager, “There's a general notion that green space is good for health, but there's really not a lot of evidence to understand the many complexities involved between vastly different forms of green spaces, communities and built environments.”
The study underscores the need to cross-analyze metrics such as walk scores to understand the broader context and the reality behind the measure.
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