Scientists from Italy concluded that urban children with asthma living near parks or green spaces have fewer days with symptoms of the disease.
The study examined children with persistent asthma living in the city. Over the course of two weeks, the number of days with illness was recorded, then this data was correlated with the distance from their homes to the nearest park. The results showed that living near a park can benefit children with asthma, especially older children, who are more likely to travel to the park on their own.
Living in an urban environment increases the risk of asthma in children. Factors associated with urban life, such as air pollution, are known to contribute to high rates of poorly controlled asthma. Previous research has shown that children with asthma can benefit from exercise. The presence of green spaces promotes physical activity and helps to be more frequent in areas with clean air.
The researchers wanted to see if something as simple as a neighborhood could help children with poorly controlled asthma in Baltimore, USA. It is a city of about six hundred and twenty thousand, with pollution levels similar to New York and Los Angeles, but slightly lower than London and Milan.
The researchers interviewed parents of one hundred and ninety-six children, ages three to twelve, who had sought help for asthma or had been hospitalized for their illness over the past year. Basically, this group of children was made up of African Americans. Their families are of lower socioeconomic status, which means that they represent a population group with a high risk of death from asthma.
The researchers asked parents how many days each child suffered from symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, and wheezing. At the same time, they compared the distances between the children’s home addresses and the nearest green zone. It was found that the children were, on average, only two hundred and fifty meters from the nearest park, but if some lived near the parks, others were more than a kilometer away.
For every three hundred and five meters from the house to the park, there was one extra day when the children suffered from asthma symptoms. For example, a child who lives near a park had an average of five days with symptoms, while a child who lives three hundred and five meters from the park had six such days. Older children living near the park had an average of five days with symptoms, while a child living just one hundred and fifty-two meters from the park had six days.
The effect is especially noticeable in children aged six years and older. This may be explained by the fact that they have more freedom to choose where they want to go, compared to younger children. The results are important as they provide further support for the benefits of urban parks and suggest that sound building policies can improve children’s health. In addition, the data will help healthcare providers gain a more holistic view of their patients by understanding how access to green space can affect health.
The study is slated to expand to analyze the relationship between different forms of green space, including parks and backyards and gardens, and their relationship to asthma symptoms in children.