Did Playground Renovations Equitably Benefit Neighborhoods in Chicago?

J Urban Health. 2020 Sep 1. doi: 10.1007/s11524-020-00472-4. Online ahead of print.


Between 2013 and 2016, the Chicago Park District renovated 327 playgrounds in need of repair across Chicago through a $44 million investment. This study evaluated whether short-term and longer-term impacts of renovations on park use and park-based moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) differed by neighborhood income level and neighborhood concentration of Black residents. A total of 39 parks with renovated playgrounds and 39 matched comparison parks with playgrounds that needed repair but not selected for renovation in year 1 were studied. Three waves of observational data were collected at each park: baseline, 12 months post-renovation, and 24 months post-renovation. Difference-in-differences mixed-effects Poisson regression models estimated renovation effects. The effects of renovations differed by the income level and concentration of Black residents in the neighborhoods where parks were located. In low-income neighborhoods, renovations were associated with reductions in park use and park-based MVPA over the longer term. In contrast, renovations were associated with short- and longer-term increases in park use and park-based MVPA in medium-income neighborhoods and with longer-term increases in MVPA in high-income neighborhoods. Renovations were generally not associated with any changes in park use or park-based MVPA in high-percent Black neighborhoods, but they were associated with increased park use and park-based MVPA in low-percent Black neighborhoods. This study suggests playground renovations in Chicago may have had unintended consequences, increasing neighborhood income and racial disparities in park use and park-based MVPA. Future playground renovation efforts may need to allocate more resources for renovating the broader park where in disrepair, more intensely involve neighborhood residents, and employ complementary strategies such as additional park programming to ensure renovations benefit all neighborhoods.

PMID:32875485 | DOI:10.1007/s11524-020-00472-4