Monday, 20 August 2012

Why create a POS Tool?

Public open space (POS), including parks, confer a number of physical, psychological and social health benefits for individuals and the community. POS is an important setting for physical activity, which is beneficial to health in its own right, as well as contributing to prevention of overweight and obesity, improving mental health and reducing chronic disease. Parks can provide a local destination for people to walk to and be active in, and residents with very good access to attractive and large POS are 50% more likely to achieve high levels of walking (180 minutes walking/week) compared with residents without such access.

Given the benefits accruing from POS, there are a number of attributes of parks which directly impact individuals and communities. Reduction in these attributes are cause for public cconcern and include:
  • Equity of access - growing income disparity in Australia and increasing urban development pose a threat to the availability and adequate provision of POS for a growing population.
  • Quality - if accessible, quality can be problematic and a deterrent to use. 
  • Safety - at the individual level, fears for personal safety can impinge on walking and perceived safety of public places including POS and at the community level, fear of crime and the costs of vandalism have seen a growing number of school ovals fenced off, reducing community access to POS. 
  • Attractiveness - providing environmental benefits such as trees, air purification, and shade. POS also provides other necessary design functions, for instance, water catchment and storm water drainage.
In summary, POS makes important contributions to the health and well being of individuals and communities, as well as the quality and environmental sustainability of communities.  Given the lack of data on the specific relationships between the provision and distribution of POS and a range of health benefits, access to POS data is needed as well as research to assess those attributes that can benefit social and mental health of individuals and communities. By developing an open source, web based geospatial analytic tool we endeavour to enable researchers, planners and policy makers to access and utilise new data on POS, and provide capabilities to interrogate these data to answer key questions related to their fields of work.  

1 comment:

  1. I understand the need, and indeed I'm thinking I need to take advantage of my local parks now. Though, now I want to know how data is going to be collected and used to understand POS use? Onto the next post I imagine :)