More Than a Pretty Place

Evaluating how an activated, urban park can impact neighborhood health in Milwaukee

Full Project Name:More Than a Pretty Place: Activating urban parks to improve community health and wellnessPrimary Community Organization:Urban Ecology CenterPrimary Academic Partner:Kirsten Beyer, PhD, Institute for Health and EquityAward Amount:$199,986
Award Date
January2012
Project Duration:30 months

Project Description Narrative:


The availability and quality of green spaces, such as parks, is an important component of neighborhood quality. A growing body of evidence illuminates the broad benefits of access to green space. Some work has also shown that the relationship between available green space and good health is stronger among lower socio-economic status (SES) groups, possibly due to limited mobility increasing the importance of the quality of local environments. Given the positive influence of neighborhood green space on health outcomes and the relatively limited mobility of low SES urban populations, urban parks have tremendous potential value for addressing health problems in urban neighborhoods. However, the mere presence of a park may not automatically relay benefits to the community. Parks must be properly leveraged to shift the health status of residents.

To better understand how an urban park can impact neighborhood health, project partners aim to measure the impact of a new, activated urban green space in Milwaukee on community health, including how complementary outreach and education affects knowledge, attitudes, behaviors, assets/supports and health outcomes among neighborhood residents.

Community partners:
Menomonee Valley Partners, UW-Milwaukee Center for Urban Initiatives Research

Additional MCW academic partner:
Amy Kistner, MS, LPC, Family and Community Medicine

Outcomes & Lessons Learned:


• Collected baseline information on children's health behaviors, assets/supports, and outcomes as well as data on children's knowledge and attitudes about outdoor play in green spaces, health and access to green spaces, and geographical patterns of neighborhood quality

• Documented that children who participated in the intervention demonstrated reduced fears of outdoor play in nature and were more likely to indicate that they would visit the space (Milwaukee's Urban Ecology Center) outside of school programs

• Participated in numerous dissemination opportunities to share project findings and raise awareness and interest among community members and stakeholders

• Identified future collaboration opportunities with the City of Milwaukee Health Department, Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers, and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee to continue to build on the project successes

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