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Greening up grey cities: study to explore nature’s links to health

How much green is needed amongst the grey of cities to keep people healthy and out of hospital?

This is one of the key overarching questions a $3.2 million research project will explore.

The five-year research project, titled ‘Greener Cities Healthier Lives’, is a partnership between the Horticulture Innovation Australia Green Cities fund and the Population Wellbeing and Environment Research Lab at the University of Wollongong (UoW).

Study co-lead associate professor Thomas Astell-Burt said the rapid urbanisation of the global population has resulted in large, often sprawling and mostly grey cities, filled with medium-to-high rise buildings with little greenery nearby.

"Parks are great places to be physically active and meet with friends and family, both of which we already know are important for our health," Astell-Burt said. "But we also theorise that green spaces help provide places where we can find relief from the noise and air pollution associated with heavy traffic in our cities, as well as locations to relax and recuperate from stressful things that occur daily in our lives."

The research will cover the themes of pregnancy and perinatal health, child health and educational attainment, adult mental health and chronic disease risk, health service use and healthcare costs, and green space preferences and outdoor recreation among seniors.

Co-lead Dr Xiaoqi Feng said: "We recognise that there may not be a one-size-fits-all solution and how people use green space is often dependent upon their age, which is why we will examine relevant outcomes and pathways that relate to pregnancy, childhood, adulthood and seniors."

The research team explores data such as NAPLAN results, longitudinal studies of mental health and chronic disease in relation to green space, and hospital admissions and health service costs associated with local green spaces.

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