The Physical Activity and Redesigned Community Spaces (PARCS) Study
Huang, T. T. K., Wyka, K. E., Ferris, E. B., Gardner, J., Evenson, K. R., Tripathi, D., ... Thorpe, L. E. (2016). The Physical Activity and Redesigned Community Spaces (PARCS) Study: Protocol of a natural experiment to investigate the impact of citywide park redesign and renovation. BMC Public Health, 16, . DOI: 10.1186/s12889-016-3822-2
Background: The built environment plays a critical role in promoting physical activity and health. The association between parks, as a key attribute of the built environment, and physical activity, however, remains inconclusive. This project leverages a natural experiment opportunity to assess the impact of the Community Parks Initiative (CPI), a citywide park redesign and renovation effort in New York City, on physical activity, park usage, psychosocial and mental health, and community wellbeing.
Methods: The project will use a longitudinal design with matched controls. Thirty intervention park neighborhoods are socio-demographically matched to 20 control park neighborhoods. The study will investigate whether improvements in physical activity, park usage, psychosocial and mental health, and community wellbeing are observed from baseline to 3 years post-renovation among residents in intervention vs. control neighborhoods.
Discussion: This study represents a rare opportunity to provide robust evidence to further our understanding of the complex relationship between parks and health. Findings will inform future investments in health-oriented urban design policies and offer evidence for addressing health disparities through built environment strategies.