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Jon Christensen in Capitol Weekly: Parks are a public health solution waiting on our doorstep

It’s time to shift the conversation around parks in California. New data is illuminating the need to look at state parks in communities a bit differently. Rather than measuring their value by their undeniable beauty, new research illustrates a clear opportunity to measure parks by their impact on our public health and communities.

It is our obligation to begin looking at California’s forests, coastlines and parklands in terms of what they can do for our underserved neighborhoods and youth who live within arm’s reach, but lack pathways to experience the health and wellness benefits they provide.

Mounting research clearly proves the outdoors are a source of innumerable health and wellness benefits for all Californians. As referenced in UCLA’s new report, a study of California children showed living within 500 meters of a park was associated with gaining significantly less body mass by age 18, making them less likely to develop health problems down the line. Another study surveyed 80,000 California households and found living near a green space significantly lowered levels of distress, regardless of socioeconomic status.