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This is part of the Salud America! The State of Latinos and Housing, Transportation, and Green Space: A Research Review »
Latino communities lack green spaces that are safe, accessible, functional, and culturally relevant.
What Are Green Spaces?
Within urban, suburban, and rural communities, green space can be natural or maintained outdoor public space, such as parks, playgrounds, sporting fields, school yards, day care and early care yards, greenways/trails, tree-lined sidewalks, community gardens, nature conservation areas, forests, as well as less conventional urban “green alleyways,” “pocket parks,” and green walls or roofs .
Green Space Inequities Exist
Unfortunately, access to and quality of green space is not equitably distributed.
Compared with nearly half of all Whites, only one third of Latinos live within walking distance (usually defined as less than one mile) of a park, and the quality of that park is dependent upon the neighborhood in which it is located . Lack of park access has been linked to mortality, and green cover has been shown to protect health [55, 56].
Importantly, a large number of studies have demonstrated a link between park proximity and physical activity [57–59]. A Trust for Public Lands report found that low-income neighborhoods populated by minorities and recent immigrants are particularly short of green space . Due to this lack of recreation space, “minorities and low-income individuals are significantly less likely than whites and high-income individuals to engage in regular physical activity that is crucial to good health” .
In the United States, only 19% of Latino children have access to recreational spaces close to their neighborhoods, compared to 62% of their white peers , making this issue particularly pressing for Latino youth.
Lack of Green Space Contributes to Health Inequities
This lack of activity may play a large role in the high rates of chronic disease we see in American Latinos.
Rapid increases in obesity and diabetes suggest that individual behavior patterns, including low physical activity levels, appear to powerfully influence these chronic disease trends .
Roughly 42% of Latino adults and 22% of Latino children are obese, compared to 32% and 14% of their white counterparts; similarly, Latinos are 1.7 times more likely than whites to be diagnosed with diabetes . Overall, it is estimated that Latinos are 30% less likely to engage in physical activity than Whites .
Latinos in general are less physically active than non-Latino whites , and rural residents are less active than urban and suburban residents [65, 66].
A recent study conducted by Perry et al. used a standardized Rural Active Living Assessment (RALA) to determine the environmental characteristics that impact the activity level of individuals living in four rural, predominantly Latino communities, and found that only half of road segments were rated as walkable; only 44% of segments had walkable shoulders, and only 32% of segments had sidewalks in good condition. Similarly, parks and playgrounds were ranked as “available,” but of these, half were rated in poor condition and thus unusable. Furthermore, all four districts offered afterschool outdoor physical activity programming, but only two districts provided a late bus option, limiting the usefulness of these programs for the majority of Latino residents in these communities .
Common Barriers to Green Space in Latino Communities
- connectivity of local street networks, [68, 69]
- the presence and condition of sidewalks, [70, 71]
- access to public transportation, 
- distance to parks or green spaces, [73, 74]
- and maintenance of these spaces .
Quick links from our Research Review »
More from our Research Review »
- Executive Summary
- Introduction & Methods: Latino Housing, Transportation, and Green Space
- Research: Latino Families Burdened by Housing Costs, Eviction
- Research: Latino Rural Migration Led to Housing, Transportation Inequities
- Research: Latinos Face Big Public Transportation Challenges
- Research: Latino Communities Lack Accessible Green Space
- Strategy: How to Increase Affordable Housing in Latino Communities
- Strategy: How Transit-Oriented Development Benefit Latinos
- Strategy: Improve Public Transit to Improve Latino Quality of Life
- Strategy: Green Space Projects Can Boost Latino Health
- Strategy: Latino Community Involvement Can Spur Environmental Justice
- Policy Implications: Latino Housing, Transportation, and Green Space
- Future Research Needs: Latino Housing, Transportation, and Green Space
References for this section »
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