Research Summary

The association of knowledge, attitudes and access with park use before and after a park-prescription intervention for low-income families in the U.S.

Knowing where to go, valuing nature, and having a better understanding of time and money resources may increase the likelihood of families visiting a park

International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
2020

Park prescription programs are receiving increased attention in the public health arena. Clinicians involved in the process prescribe or recommend park visits to encourage healthy, active living. This study explored the association of park use with knowledge, attitudes and perceived access to parks. The study also sought to understand whether a clinician’s recommendation to visit a park is associated with nature affinity or whether it increases nature affinity over time.

This study analyzed data from 78 families receiving health-related services from an active park prescription program for low-income families. Participating caregivers completed park-use assessments before and after participating in the park-prescription intervention program. After the initial (baseline) assessment, each family met with a pediatrician who shared information with them about the health benefits of nature and provided a park prescription. Each family was also given information about seven recommended parks in the area. Follow-up assessments were completed at one and three months after the park prescription. The before and after assessments focused on the caregivers’ knowledge, attitudes, perceived barriers and behaviors regarding park use.

Data from the initial (baseline) assessments showed that most (63%) of the caregivers had visited a park at least once during the prior week.  Most (72%) also reported that they did not currently spend a lot of time in nature. Approximately half of the caregivers indicated that they had enough knowledge about the location of parks to visit them with their families; and 81% said they valued visiting parks with family members. Money was the most commonly cited barrier to visiting parks. There were differences between those who had visited a park the previous week and those who did not. “Park visitors” were more likely to know park locations, to value visiting parks with their families, and to feel their neighborhoods were safe for their children. They were not more likely, however, to value nature. The “park visitors” also tended to be white versus African American or Latino. Regardless of their park use at baseline, after receiving a park prescription, the families park use increased. Participants also reported increased level of information about the location of parks, nature affinity, and understanding about time and resource availability.

“This study suggests that the same populations at risk for health inequities in chronic illness are those who may be visiting parks less at baseline. Non-white respondents and those who lacked neighborhood safety were less likely to visit parks even once a week. . . . this was true whether those same respondents believed they had a park in their neighborhood.” These results highlight the importance of considering demographics, knowledge, attitudes and perceived barriers to park use in the planning and implementation of park prescription interventions.