Mothers who live in neighbourhoods with plenty of grass, trees or other types of green space are more likely to deliver babies at full term with higher birth weights, says new research from the University of British Columbia and Oregon State University.
The study looked at over 64,000 births and found that severe pre-term births were 20 per cent lower and moderate pre-term births were 13 per cent lower for infants whose mothers lived in greener neighbourhoods. They also found that fewer infants from greener neighbourhoods were considered small for their gestational age. Babies from neighbourhoods with more green space weighed 45 grams more at birth than infants from less green areas.
The findings held up when researchers adjusted for factors such as neighbourhood income, exposure to air pollution, noise, and walkability.
“This study adds to a growing body of research indicating the beneficial impacts of green space on the health of neighbourhoods,” says Dr. Michael Brauer, professor in UBC’s School of Population and Public Health and the study’s senior author. “This study is especially important because it included essentially all the births that occurred in the study area and accounted for other features related to urban design that also impact health.”
“We know a lot about negative influences such as living closer to major roads, but demonstrating that a design choice can have benefits is really uplifting,” says Brauer. “With the high cost of health care, modifying urban design features such as increasing green space may turn out to be an extremely cost-effective strategy to prevent disease, while at the same time providing ecological benefits.”
Dr. Perry Hystad, assistant professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences, Oregon State University:
“From a medical standpoint, those are small changes in birth weight, but across a large population, those are substantial differences that would have a significant impact on the health of infants in a community.
“We know green space is good. How do we maximize that benefit to improve health outcomes? The answer could have significant implications for land use planning and development.”
About the OSU College of Public Health and Human Sciences: The College creates connections in teaching, research and community outreach while advancing knowledge, policies and practices that improve population health in communities across Oregon and beyond.
UBC’s School of Population and Public Health provides a vibrant, interdisciplinary academic environment at a critical time in the development of public health in Canada and around the world. One of the most research-intensive units at UBC, with a long history of public health engagement, the School offers six graduate-level academic programs, as well as a residency program. For more information, click here.