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Since the burden of chronic diseases is rising globally, there is an urgent need to develop population-level approaches to reducing the risk of chronic diseases. Neighborhood environments, where people spend much of their time, are relevant in this context because they can influence residents’ daily behaviors related to health. In particular, public green spaces (PGS) can confer health benefits through facilitating physical activity, contact with nature, and social interaction. PGS may also mitigate socio-economic inequalities in health. However, despite growing evidence, PGS are generally not fully utilized as a resource for physical activity. Thus, there is substantial scope for enhancing population health through increased visits and active use of PGS. This essay argues that PGS are not only health-enhancing but also practical and workable environmental resources to promote population health. We discuss three “advantages” of using PGS as health promotion initiatives: PGS are easier to modify (than are other structural environmental features); PGS can involve programs to help residents initiate physical activity; and PGS are valued by residents. The essay concludes with a discussion of future research topics, the result of which can be used to convince and assist local authorities and other key stakeholders to use PGS as readily available resources for health promotion.


Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research

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Journal Article

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