The Physical Activity and Redesigned Community Spaces (PARCS) Study: Protocol of a natural experiment to investigate the impact of citywide park redesign and renovation
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.