Funding Public Parks Could Save Lives

Source: Lawrence J. Cohen and Anthony T. DeBenedet, Time, December 29, 2011

If people’s lives are at stake because of poorly funded parks, shouldn’t we do something about it?

This has been a bad year for state and local parks. If you’ve come across park gates that are chained shut or playgrounds that are rusting, as we have, then you know this firsthand. Budget crises have forced states to not only drastically cut park funding but consider unprecedented closures as well. … This neglect runs contrary to public opinion, which consistently supports parks, even in a time of shrinking budgets, because they are good for the economy, animal habitats, family bonding, community building and the growing problems of childhood obesity and nature deficit disorder — a term coined by Richard Louv, who argues that children are spending less time outdoors because of parental safety fears and the presence of TV and other electronic screens. … But recent research suggests that parks aren’t just good for our well-being, they may even be a matter of life and death. In a December 2005 Environmental Health Perspectives article, Amy Schulz and her colleagues suggested that parks might be a protective factor in cardiovascular disease risk; an absence of safe parks may be part of why poverty leads to poorer health outcomes.

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