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Healthy Parks, Healthy Children KCET Barcelona UCLA The City Project

People with access to green space tend to be more physically active, enjoy better health, and suffer lower levels of obesity, diabetes, asthma, stress, mental illness, depression, anxiety, and other disorders. Exposure to green space during childhood could result in beneficial structural changes in the brain, according to a recent study. Children’s health should not depend on where they live, the color of their skin, or how much money their families make.

“This is the first study that evaluates the association between long-term exposure to greenspace and brain structure,” says Dr. Payam Dadvand, leading author of the study by the Barcelona Institute of Global Health. “Our findings suggest that exposure to greenspace early in life could result in beneficial structural changes in the brain.”

A previous study showed that children who attended schools with higher outdoor green space had a greater increase in working memory and a greater reduction in inattentiveness than children who attended schools with less greenness. Furthermore, greener areas often have lower levels of air pollution and noise and may enrich microbial inputs from the environment, all of which could translate into indirect benefits for brain development. The “biophilia hypothesis” suggests that green space provides children with opportunities for psychological restoration and exercises in discovery, creativity and risk taking, which, in turn, positively influence brain development.

“We’re not just trying to find association between greenery and cognitive function, but showing there’s a biological mechanism that could be leading to these kinds of changes in early childhood development,” said Dr. Michael Jerrett, co-author of the study and department chair and professor of Environmental Health Sciences at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. . . .

“Low-income communities and communities of color lack access to parks and are disproportionately affected by health problems like diabetes and heart disease, but these disparities and inequities are not accidental,” said Robert Garcia, founding director and counsel of the City Project, who attributes the disparities to a legacy of discriminatory housing and land use practices in Los Angeles.

Click on the image to watch SoCal Connected’s ‘Park Poor’ featuring Anahuak Youth Sports Association and The City Project

Read the Barcelona study and the complete KCET article Long Term Exposure to Green Spaces Affects Children’s Cognitive Development