Examining Public Open Spaces by Neighborhood-Level Walkability and Deprivation

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health
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Background:

Public open spaces (POS) are recognized as important to promote physical activity engagement. However, it is unclear how POS attributes, such as activities available, environmental quality, amenities present, and safety, are associated with neighborhood-level walkability and deprivation.

Methods:

Twelve neighborhoods were selected within 1 constituent city of Auckland, New Zealand based on higher (n = 6) or lower (n = 6) walkability characteristics. Neighborhoods were dichotomized as more (n = 7) or less (n = 5) socioeconomically deprived. POS (n = 69) were identified within these neighborhoods and audited using the New Zealand-Public Open Space Tool. Unpaired 1-way analysis of variance tests were applied to compare differences in attributes and overall score of POS by neighborhood walkability and deprivation.

Results:

POS located in more walkable neighborhoods have significantly higher overall scores when compared with less walkable neighborhoods. Deprivation comparisons identified POS located in less deprived communities have better quality environments, but fewer activities and safety features present when compared with more deprived neighborhoods.

Conclusions:

A positive relationship existed between presence of POS attributes and neighborhood walkability, but the relationship between POS and neighborhood-level deprivation was less clear. Variation in neighborhood POS quality alone is unlikely to explain poorer health outcomes for residents in more deprived areas.

Badland is with the Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand. Keam and Kearns are with the School of Geography, Geology, and Environmental Science, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand. Witten is with the Centre for Social and Health Outcomes Research and Evaluation, Massey University, Auckland, New Zealand.