Access to green space may protect against cardiovascular disease

13 May 2021

A new study shows that cities with good tree cover and where the population perceives having access to parks or outdoor spaces can improve obesity, high blood pressure or diabetes. A research team from the CTFC, ICTA-UAB, ISGlobal (center promoted by “la Caixa” Foundation), USDA Forest Service and Dornsife School of Public Health publishes it in the scientific journal Environmental Research.


Although there is an increasing number of studies associating green spaces in a city with improved cardiovascular health, this research expands this knowledge and distinguishes between the type of vegetation, the perceived access to green spaces or between neighborhoods within the same city.

“It is not enough for a city to have green spaces, the population must perceive they have access to them”, explains Pablo Knobel, lead author of the article and member of the CTFC’s Environment and Human Health Lab (EH2 Lab). “For example, in Barcelona we have green spaces that are not perceived as such, as they are either not accessible or have other limitations, such as the feeling of safety”, he adds.

On the other hand, results show that the relationship between green spaces and cardiovascular health can vary according to sociodemographic differences between neighborhoods. The perception of having access to green spaces mainly affects those neighborhoods with a higher poverty rate. On the other hand, in those areas with a better economic situation, the number of trees will be the indicator that favours the relationship.

To carry out the study, the team used data obtained from surveys of the population of Philadelphia, United States, and linked them with geospatial data. “Generally, these are complex data that are difficult to translate. With this study, we provide concrete information to guide urban decision-making,” Knobel explains.

As the study concludes, strategies to follow to make cities greener “will be those that not only increase the amount of green, but those that promote more accessible, safe, inclusive and usable green spaces”.

More information:

Knobel P, Kondo M, Maneja R, Zhao Y, Dadvand P, Schinasi LH. Associations of objective and perceived greenness measures with cardiovascular risk factors in Philadelphia, PA: A spatial analysis. Environ Res. 2021 Mar 22;197:110990. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33766569.



Last modified: 13 May 2021