The impact of intervening in green space in Dutch deprived neighbourhoods on physical activity and general health: results from the quasi-experimental URBAN40 study

Mariël Droomers, Birthe Jongeneel-Grimen, Daniëlle Kramer, Sjerp de Vries, Stef Kremers, Jan-Willem Bruggink, Hans van Oers, Anton E Kunst, Karien Stronks
Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 2016, 70 (2): 147-54

BACKGROUND: Many problems concentrate in deprived neighbourhoods, among which is poor health. One possible way to address these health problems is to invest in the green space in deprived neighbourhoods. The number of evaluations of the public health impact of actual changes in neighbourhood green space is still limited. This study investigated the impact of real-life changes in the quality or quantity of green space in severely deprived neighbourhoods on physical activity and perceived general health.

METHODS: Repeated cross-sectional surveys from 2004 till 2011 yielded self-reported information on leisure time walking, cycling and sports, and perceived general health of 48,132 adult residents. We fitted generalised mixed models to assess the rate of change per half year, estimate the linear trend, and the change in trends before and after the start of the urban regeneration mid-2008. Using a quasi-experimental design, we compared the trends in the intervention neighbourhoods with different selections of control areas.

RESULTS: The deprived neighbourhoods that intervened in green space did not show more favourable changes in the trend of physical activity and good general health compared to all the different groups of control areas.

CONCLUSIONS: We did not observe short-term positive effects on physical activity and general health among adults from improvements in green space in deprived neighbourhoods. This suggests that greening interventions that have been carried out in the context of the Dutch District Approach did not achieve short-term health gains among adults.

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