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Centre for Behavioural
Research in Cancer

ShadePlus: a built environment intervention to improve park usage in disadvantaged neighbourhoods

There is a paucity of research on the health outcomes of changes to the built environment. Degraded parks in disadvantaged areas are underutilized for recreation, which may impact long-term health. Using a natural experiment, we examined the effects of local government refurbishments to parks (n = 3 intervention; n = 3 comparison) in low socioeconomic areas of Melbourne on park use, health behaviour, social engagement and psychological well-being. Amenities promoting physical activity and sun protection included walking paths, playground equipment and built shade. Outcomes were measured via systematic observations, and self-report surveys of park visitors over three years. The refurbishments significantly increased park use, while shade use increased only in parks with shade sails. A trend for increased social engagement was also detected. Results suggest that improvement of quality, number and type of amenities in degraded parks can substantially increase park use in low socio-economic areas. Findings support provision of shade over well-designed playgrounds in future park refurbishments to enhance engagement and sun protection behaviour. Further research should identify park amenities to increase physical activity.

CBRC staff

Dr Suzanne Dobbinson, Prof Melanie Wakefield, Jody Simmons, James Chamberlain


A/Prof Jenny Veitch and Prof Jo Salmon (Deakin University), Adrian Gray (Brimbank City Council)


NHMRC Partnership Grant (1062314) with Brimbank City Council


2014 - 2020