University Research Finds Insufficient Play Areas in Low-Income Neighborhoods

UAB_logoA new study by researchers in the School of Health Professions at the University of Alabama Birmingham documents a major disparity in play places for children depending on the average incomes of families in the surrounding area.

The researchers found that parks, playgrounds, and open spaces in affluent areas tended to have clean restrooms, cleared walking surfaces, accessibility to play structures, and a safe environment. In contrast, parks, playgrounds, and open spaces in less affluent areas had limited open areas, static rather than dynamic playground features, and a lack of security.

Gavin Jenkins, an assistant professor in the department of occupational therapy at the University of Alabama Birmingham and the lead author of the research, said that “children learn through play, and studies have shown that access to safe, well-designed parks provides health benefits to children. Understanding the quality of play environments will help communities ensure that all children have access to imaginative, stimulating, play environments.”

Amy Maher, an occupational therapy student at the university and a co-author of the study, added that “improving parks and playgrounds would encourage families to use the play spaces, and that in turn would give children more access to active play, which is central to child development and social, emotional, cognitive, and physical well-being.”

The article, “Disparities in Quality of Park Play Spaces between Two Cities with Diverse Income and Race/Ethnicity Composition: A Pilot Study,” was published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. It may be viewed here.

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  1. This is not at all surprising. Might the deplorable and unsafe conditions of play areas in low-income communites be one of the contributing vairable to the childhood obesity pandemic in brown and black communities? Something has got to give.

  2. Where is our tax money going? This is a situation that needs to be addressed by the community and the alderman. Preston I feel that your statement is missing the point. Obesity is caused by many other factors besides poor play areas, such as high sugar content, inadequate diet, and little exercise. Some communities have a YMCA or equivalent recreational facility but having deplorable play areas is a travesty.

  3. Every park becomes a magnet for drug sales since there is no structure in these dysfunctional comnunity to band together and say enough! Even the black politicians stay far away.

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