||5R21CA202693-02 Interpret this number
||University Of South Carolina At Columbia
||PARKINDEX: a Tool for Advancing Parks and Public Health Research and Practice
Parks are acknowledged as key elements of healthy communities. Proximity to and use of parks is associated
with diverse health outcomes, including increased physical activity participation, reduced stress and morbidity,
improved social capital, obesity prevention, and chronic disease mitigation. Despite these benefits and
researchers' and planners' enthusiasm for park provision, it remains unclear which park metrics are most
associated with park use. The heterogeneity in research on parks and health behaviors and outcomes impedes
progress in the use of this evidence to inform public health practice and policy. The long-term goal of our
research program is to increase the contribution of public parks to population health through improving their
distribution, design, and use. The proposed study advances that agenda through the development
of ParkIndex, a tool that incorporates elements related to park proximity, features, quality, and the surrounding
neighborhood to allow researchers, planners, and citizens to evaluate the potential for park access and use for
a given address or geographical area. Specifically, the two related aims of this proposal are: 1) To develop a
prototype park use probability algorithm (ParkIndex) incorporating key park metrics using park exposure and
park use data from a recent study, and 2) To further refine ParkIndex and assess its predictive value and
external validity through a pilot study within four additional communities. To accomplish these aims, we will
build on our team's vast prior knowledge and experience and a recent comprehensive literature review about
park metrics associated with park use. We will then use the input of an advisory board of professionals with
expertise in parks, planning, and community health, focus groups with citizens, and detailed data from a recent
study of park exposure and use to develop a preliminary ParkIndex formula. This prototype will then be
validated through a pilot study in four diverse communities via the collection of additional park access and use
data and then disseminated broadly through our advisory board's wide network. This innovative project will
combine diverse methods and data sources and the expertise and input of researchers, practitioners, and
citizens to develop an evidence-based yet user-friendly tool that can better predict park use in communities.
ParkIndex will have both practical and conceptual significance in that it can be used by researchers in diverse
disciplines (e.g., to apply consistent, empirically-derived metrics of park access across studies) and by public
health, parks and recreation, and urban design professionals as a scenario planning tool for encouraging
greater population-level park use (e.g., to estimate the effects of adding a certain-sized park to a neighborhood
or a sports field or restroom to an existing park). In future, ParkIndex can be customized to diverse user groups
and will serve as an open source resource that can be implemented by any researcher, municipality, parks
department, or public health division to understand park use probabilities, identify specific intervention points
and strategies, and, in general, better facilitate greater environmental justice, park use, and community health.
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