Kruize H, van den Dop T, Hermans CML, de Vries S, Wendel-Vos GC, van den Berg A
RIVM Report 2017-0204
Nature can have beneficial effects on (mental) health and wellbeing, because it stimulates people to meet, to relax, and to be physical active. To get a better insight into the impacts of local green space interventions on health, it is important to evaluate these green space interventions. This is only possible if the use and the public health status of the residents in the proximity at a location where such an intervention is being planned, is assessed a priori (baseline measurement). RIVM and research institute Alterra (now called Wageningen Environmental Research) have conducted such a baseline measurement in the city of Breda. The municipality and residents of neighbourhood Geeren-Zuid worked together to restructure an urban park there, to make it more convenient for meeting people, relaxation, and physical activity.
In this neighbourhood many residents have a low socio-economic status (SES). The hypothesis is that the effect of nature on health is largest in low SES populations. In the baseline measurement the use and perception of green space and health has been assessed before the park was restructured. In addition, the professionals from the municipality have been interviewed on their expectations regarding the effect of the restructuring of the park.
The baseline measurement revealed that the residents used the park only to a limited extent, mainly for short visits. They were not satisfied with the design of the park and the possibilities to use it. More than half of the study population expected to use it more after the restructuring, in particular to sit, sunbath, meet, and walk with or without a dog. Furthermore, the mental health and general health of the study population appeared to be worse than that of the average Dutch population.
The professionals from the municipality expected that the park would be used more after the restructuring. In the meantime, the park has been restructured and there are activities organised for and with residents. To evaluate the effects of the restructuring and these activities on health and wellbeing of the residents, follow up research is needed.