The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Evidence for Action (E4A) Program has awarded a three-year grant to the Center for Systems and Community Design at the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy (CUNY SPH) to support the Physical Activity in Redesigned Community Spaces (PARCS) Study. Drs. Terry Huang and Katarzyna Wyka are co-principal investigators.
“E4A is pleased to be able to support this project,” said Evidence for Action Director, Dr. Nancy Adler. “It is a prime example of the kind of research that can inform policy-makers as they grapple with tough decisions and trade-offs when allocating limited resources. The PARCS research project should yield important evidence about the impact of park renovations on child and family health and well-being.”
“The health and well-being of children is critically important,” said Claire Gibbons, senior program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “This study is one step in understanding how investments into the built environment can improve children’s health.”
The PARCS Study is an innovative research collaboration with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (NYC Parks) to explore the relationship between changes to the built environment and New Yorkers’ physical activity, mental health, and community well-being. The study evaluates the impact of NYC Parks’ Community Parks Initiative, a $318 million capital investment program to redesign and renovate small neighborhood parks in underserved neighborhoods throughout New York City.
“NYC Parks is committed to improving quality of life and providing thriving community and recreational spaces across New York City,” said NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP. “We strongly believe in cross-sectoral approaches and are pleased to collaborate with CUNY SPH on the PARCS Study. Research from this project will play a significant role in informing built environment policies in the city and beyond. We are thrilled to hear of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s support.”
Launched in 2016, the PARCS Study has enrolled over 1,000 adult and 500 child participants. Using accelerometry and mobile health technology, the PARCS Study collected physical activity, park usage and self-reported psychosocial and community health data at 54 study sites throughout NYC before the intervention parks closed for renovations. As the renovated intervention parks reopen, the PARCS Study is currently collecting follow up waves of data.
“The Center for Systems and Community Design aims to innovate at the intersection of design and health by working across sectors,” said Terry Huang, the center’s director. “We are particularly interested in how urban designs such as parks impact the social and health fabric of communities. The NYC Communities Parks Initiative provides us with a unique opportunity to examine this question.”
With the additional funding from E4A, the PARCS Study will be able to examine the impact of park redesign and renovation on children’s quality of life and physical activity. The study is novel and unprecedented in scale. Findings will inform investments in health-oriented urban design policies and offer evidence for addressing health disparities through built environment interventions.
“CUNY SPH is proud to provide evaluation expertise to city agencies whose work impacts the public’s health,” said CUNY SPH Dean Ayman El-Mohandes. “The partnership with NYC Parks is particularly novel and important as parks may play a critical role in the well-being of communities. We are excited about the opportunity through this E4A grant led by Drs. Huang and Wyka to document the impact of the Community Parks Initiative on children.”