The health benefits of nature in post-industrial cities: challenges, advances and new directions

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups: Health and Medical Geography Specialty Group, Urban Geography Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 5:20 PM / 7:00 PM (MDT)
Room: Jackson, Marriott, 5th Floor
Organizers: Amber Pearson, Kirsten Beyer
Chairs: Amber Pearson


To address persistent racial and socioeconomic health disparities, geographers, city planners and public health researchers are investigating environmental features of neighborhoods which may reduce stress and promote healthy lifestyles, including urban green (e.g. parks) and blue (e.g. water bodies) spaces. Green and blue spaces are thought to offer locations for social interaction, physical activity and relaxation, by providing a calming visual back drop, in contrast to urban built up features. However, the quality of these spaces is thought to influence their use and potential restorative effects. It is also unclear whether health effects are equal across sub-populations and how types of green or blue spaces (e.g. parks, gardens) may vary in impact.
These issues may be particularly relevant, though largely unexplored, in post-industrial cities facing the paradoxical challenge of shrinking, instead of growing. Challenges in these cities include eroding tax bases, an abundance of vacant land, economic dislocation and disinvestment, entrenched racial and ethnic segregation, and blighted spaces that invite crime and violence. While this changing landscape presents challenges for community stability and public health, there are also opportunities to convert health liabilities such as vacant land into health assets like green space.
We invite scholars interested in contributing to a discussion of the challenges, advances and new directions in this emerging area of research to submit abstracts related to any of the following:
• Evidence of health effects of green interventions (e.g. vacant lot conversions)
• The health benefits of green or blue spaces (e.g. stress reduction, physical activity)
• Fear, anxiety, and perceptions of safety related to green spaces of varying quality and vacant land
• Stress-reduction through visual and auditory exposures to nature in urban contexts
• Quantifying ‘good’ versus ‘bad’ green or blue spaces
• Trust, community engagement, health data collection and mobile technologies in communities of color
• The role of residential racial segregation in shaping urban environmental exposures
• Creation of environmental health assets in under-resourced urban neighborhoods


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Amber Pearson*, Michigan State University, The health benefits of nature: Progress and gaps in knowledge 20 5:20 PM
Presenter Kirsten Beyer*, Medical College of Wisconsin, Green Space Inequity in the Rust Belt: Lasting Impacts of early 20th Century Housing Practices? 20 5:40 PM
Presenter Amanda Rzotkiewicz*, Michigan State University, Amber L. Pearson, Michigan State University, Jen Pechal, Michigan State University, Ashton Shortridge, Michigan State University, Assessing the relationship between neighborhood vegetation and the human postmortem microbiome at multiple anatomical sites: potential implications for health 20 6:00 PM
Presenter Jared Olson*, Medical College of Wisconsin, Antoine Carter, Groundwork Milwaukee, Staci Young, Medical College of Wisconsin, Kirsten Beyer, Medical College of Wisconsin, Neighbors, Vacant Land, and the Reclamation of Healthy Urban Space 20 6:20 PM

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