2016 - Research

The Case for Healthy Places: Improving Health Outcomes Through Placemaking

Both the quality and process of placemaking, defined loosely within this publication as a project that occurs in public spaces helping people to feel connected to a place and greater community, has demonstrated physical, mental, and social health benefits.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • Both the quality and process of placemaking, defined loosely within this publication as a project that occurs in public spaces helping people to feel connected to a place and greater community, has demonstrated physical, mental, and social health benefits.

RESULTS:

  • Placemaking initiatives, such as resident-led pavement painting or community garden projects, create opportunities for gathering, socialization, and volunteerism, which have been shown to reduce psychological distress and depression, increase perceived safety, and mitigate crime.

  • Placemaking that creates or improves parks and play spaces helps to encourage recreational walking; increase physical activity; diversify use of the space; and generate a sense of community and ownership, which in turn contributes to greater use of parks.

  • Greenery helps make public spaces more attractive by adding visual appeal, comfort, and the opportunity to develop and reflect a place’s unique identity. This can lead to increased physical activity; reduced depression, anxiety and stress; increased attention and memory; social interaction and/or community activities that build social capital; reduced violent crime; improved air and water quality; and resilience to flooding.

  • Placemaking that creates and/or supports healthy food environments can lead to: increased individual fruit and vegetable consumption; food security; economic development opportunities to the local food system; opportunities for local entrepreneurship, socialization, community building, and nutrition and food-based education; and environmental sustainability.

  • Placemaking to improve a community’s walkability can lead to: increased physical activity and cognitive function; reduced risk factors of obesity and chronic disease; improved safety and accessibility of streets and other public spaces; enhanced local economies; and reduced air pollution and greenhouse gases by encouraging non-automotive transportation.

METHODS:

  • This publication identifies current research and case studies linking placemaking and health around five themes:

    • Social support and interaction

    • Play and active recreation

    • Green and natural environments

    • Healthy food

    • Walking and biking.

  • For each of the five themes listed in this publication, an explanation of its role in placemaking, a literature review detailing why the theme is important for community health, a summary of key research findings, future areas of research, and action strategies for communities are provided.

Project for Public Spaces, Inc. (2016). The Case for Healthy Places – Improving Health Outcomes Through Placemaking. Retrieved from: https://www.pps.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Healthy-Places-PPS.pdf