“Sense of place” is a widely discussed concept in fields as diverse as geography, environmental psychology, and art, but it has little traction in the field of public health. The health impact of place includes physical, psychological, social, spiritual, and aesthetic outcomes. In this article, the author introduces a sense of place as a public health construct. While many recommendations for “good places” are available, few are based on empirical evidence, and thus they are incompatible with current public health practice. Evidence-based recommendations for healthy placemaking could have important public health implications. Four aspects of the built environment, at different spatial scales—nature contact, buildings, public spaces, and urban form—are identified as offering promising opportunities for public health research, and potential research agendas for each are discussed.
This article investigates the impact of the running environment on perceived satisfaction, restoration, and running participation based on a questionnaire distributed to 1,581 novice runners. The most frequently experienced impediments on running routes are poor lighting, unleashed dogs, and encounters with cyclists and cars. Regression analyses reveal that attractiveness and restorativeness are positively associated with the quality of the running surface and running in parks or outside towns and negatively by running on public roads in town, by running in larger cities (>250,000 inhabitants), and by other road users. However, attractiveness and restorativeness of running routes play only a minor role in the decision of how frequently to run. Practical considerations (proximity, threats) appear to have a larger impact on running frequency. Importantly, the most frequently mentioned impediments (poor lighting, cars, unleashed dogs) do not affect running frequency, whereas infrequent impediments (threats by other people) significantly affect running frequency.
C. Scott Shafer, John Baker, David Scott & Kirk Winemiller
‘Green infrastructure’ is a term used to describe systems of parks, greenways, open spaces and other natural landscape elements that provide community benefits. Although we have some understanding of how people use parks and developed greenways, little has been documented about use of the undesignated public and private spaces along green infrastructure features such as stream corridors. The purpose of this research was to examine characteristics that may influence people’s use of undesignated open spaces along the stream corridors that form the skeleton of many green infrastructure systems. Data were obtained from a Recreational Use Attainability Analysis (RUAA), an evaluation performed for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The RUAA was conducted for 85 survey sites along 243 km (151 miles) of streams in Houston’s Buffalo Bayou watershed. Results indicate that the proximity of stream corridors to local residents, the level of pedestrian access available and tree cover were the best predictors of recreational use while the presence of water, fish or other wildlife were not significant predictors. Observations also indicated that urban and suburban stream corridors afford a variety of recreational and aesthetic values to residents. Implications for policy, planning and design of green infrastructure are discussed.
Borst, H. C., Miedema, H. M. E., de Vries, S. I., Graham, J. M. A., & van Dongen, J. E. F.
Walking is important for the health of elderly people. Previous studies have found a relationship between neighbourhood characteristics, physical activity and related health aspects. The multivariate linear regression model presented here describes the relationships between the perceived attractiveness of streets for walking along and (physical) street characteristics. Two hundred and eighty-eight independently living elderly people (between 55 and 80 years old) participated in the study. Street characteristics were assessed along homogeneous street subsections defined as ‘links’. Positively related to perceived attractiveness of links were the following street characteristics: slopes and/or stairs, zebra crossings, trees along the route, front gardens, bus and tram stops, shops, business buildings, catering establishments, passing through parks or the city centre, and traffic volume. Litter on the street, high-rise buildings, and neighbourhood density of dwellings were negatively related to perceived link attractiveness. Overall, the results suggest that three main aspects affect perceived attractiveness of streets for walking, namely tidiness of the street, its scenic value and the presence of activity or other people along the street. The results are discussed within the context of these three aspects.
Urban public open spaces are an important part of the urban environment, creating the framework for public life. The transformation of open space into successful public places is crucial in this regard. In the context of target-driven performance it is essential to identify the value of successful public open places, along with characteristics that define them. This research evaluated three case studies in Belgium (Namur, Wavre and La Louviere) which successfully transformed spaces into lively public open places. The transformation was captured by means of before-and-after imagery and analyses, and evaluated in terms of space-usage prior to, and after redesign, along with the experience and added value that the redesign brought to the area.
Steven Cummins, Sarah Curtis, Ana V. Diez-Roux & Sally Macintyre
Epidemiology, sociology, and geography have been successful in re-establishing interest in the role of place in shaping health and health inequalities. However, some of the relevant empirical research has relied on rather conventional conceptions of space and place and focused on isolating the ‘‘independent’’ contribution of place-level and individual-level factors. This approach may have resulted in an underestimate of the contribution of ‘place’ to disease risk. In this paper we argue the case for extensive (quantitative) as well as intensive (qualitative) empirical, as well as theoretical, research on health variation that incorporates ‘relational’, views of space and place. Specifically, we argue that research in place and health should avoid the false dualism of context and composition by recognising that there is a mutually reinforcing and reciprocal relationship between people and place. We explore in the discussion how these theoretical perspectives are beginning to influence empirical research. We argue that these approaches to understanding how place relates to health are important in order to deliver effective, ‘contextually sensitive’ policy interventions. r 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Rebekah Levine Coley, Frances E. Kuo & William C. Sullivan
This study examines how the availability of nature influences the use of outdoor public spaces in two Chicago public housing developments. Ninety-six observations were collected of the presence and location of trees and the presence and location of youth and adults in semiprivate spaces at one high-rise and one low-rise public housing development. Results consistently indicated that natural landscaping encourages greater use of outdoor areas by residents. Spaces with trees attracted larger groups of people, as well as more mixed groups of youth and adults, than did spaces devoid of nature. In addition, more dense groupings of trees and trees that are located close to public housing buildings attracted larger groups of people. These findings suggest that natural elements such as trees promote increased opportunities for social interactions, monitoring of outdoor areas, and supervision of children in impoverished urban neighborhoods.
Records on recovery after cholecystectomy of patients in a suburban Pennsylvania hospital between 1972 and 1981 were examined to determine whether assignment to a room with a window view of a natural setting might have restorative influences. Twenty-three surgical patients assigned to rooms with windows looking out on a natural scene had shorter postoperative hospital stays, received fewer negative evaluative comments in nurses' notes, and took fewer potent analgesics than 23 matched patients in similar rooms with windows facing a brick building wall.