Prevention Institute is pleased to announce we will be planning a new national initiative, People, Parks, and Power: A National Initiative for Green Space, Health Equity, and Racial Justice, in partnership with the University of Utah. The initiative is being funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).
During an eight-month planning period, we will co-design a multi-year funding program focused on policy and systems changes to increase equitable access to parks and green spaces in low-income communities of color in urban areas across the United States. A key element of our planning process will be to take action to address park inequities and advance racial justice in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the economic toll on municipal budgets. Dr. Alessandro Rigolon, assistant professor in the Department of City & Metropolitan Planning at the University of Utah, will serve as a research partner on this groundbreaking effort.
Park equity—fair and just access to parks and green spaces—is key to advancing a culture of health and has been a core focus of Prevention Institute’s work for over two decades. Extensive evidence documents inequities by race, place, and income in parks, recreational facilities, and green spaces—as well deficits in programming, amenities, staffing, and upkeep—across the US, with Black and Brown neighborhoods experiencing the greatest inequities.
Urban parks and green spaces are essential community infrastructure that protect health by providing people of all ages and abilities opportunities for physical activity, time in nature, social connection, and respite. Parks also cleanse air, remove pollution, cool temperatures, and filter stormwater. Our most recent park equity work—in partnership with the Urban Institute, the University of California-Los Angeles, and seven community-based organizations—found that closing gaps in access to parks and green space has the potential to boost life expectancy in “park-poor” communities in Los Angeles County by up to 164,700 years, across the population. A companion toolkit supports community-based organizations that are building power to secure equitable investments in park infrastructure in disinvested communities.
Park equity supports health equity by increasing public funds invested in health-promoting park infrastructure in high-need communities; building capacity in government and community-based organizations for broad, inclusive community engagement in park planning and policymaking; and sharing innovative approaches and best practices to drive policy change. The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the essential role of parks in providing safe spaces for outdoor recreation and as hubs for emergency services.
We look forward to sharing more information with you as this initiative takes shape. For additional details, please see our press release.
*Photo credit: Office of Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis. This photo was taken before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.