The purpose of parks

When discussing the socioeconomic health gradient found in basically all modern societies, it is easy to become a broken record constantly spewing negative conclusions about society and the benefits of having money. I found myself looking more into the causes and the reality of the health gradient all across different countries instead of looking for stories of people trying to fix the gradient. I think this is a disservice to those who read my blog because what good would come out of just emphasizing how crappy the situation is for low income families and children? But as bleak as the situation sounded when I first started researching this topic, I realized the severity of the problem is key in motivating people to find solutions.

Every year enormous sums of money (think billions) in developed nations goes to improving public health and trying to health the lower health gap. We as a people have always been sympathetic to health issues, and it’s obvious why — no one is really safe from sickness. Although the rich might be able to afford better treatment or take more preventative measures, illnesses have the ability to permeate all families. It doesn’t discriminate. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and inhumane.” The protection of own health and the health of our loved ones is a strong force inside our hearts that allows billions of dollars to be spent on the Affordable Care Act. It is what allows us to fund Planned Parenthood for women that may not be able to afford a private physician. And it is what makes turning people away from emergency care an illegal crime since 1986.

However triumphant these programs and initiatives are for alleviating the health gap, we often overlook seemingly passive and old programs that also work to improve public health. The idea in mind are the millions of acres of public “green spaces,” or parks, set aside by the government for its citizens to enjoy. One of the many goals of park creators and advocates is to create a safe place in communities to encourage going outside and exercising. It is one place where those who are economically disadvantaged have the same amenities as those of high socioeconomic status. In England, scientists say that 8 million people use parks for 30 minutes or more every week! In fact, they even estimate that parks bring £2.2 billion of health benefits to the adults that utilize these parks for exercise by preventing health related problems such as obesity. Parks are perhaps one of the few places where the poor and the rich can receive the same help and resources for their health.

Although a park seems like a humble place, it provides one of the only free outlets where people could exercise for completely free. Its total benefits are innumerable, but it is clear that millions of people are able to take advantage of this resource and become a little healthier. In the future, we should be putting more emphasis on programs like parks — ones that put an emphasis on constant availability, community, and recreation — to try and close the health gap. These programs not only increase the quality of life of its users, but it is capable of bringing a community together. Parks have been used for birthdays, weddings, bloc parties for decades, and they represent a place that millions of people hold in a special place in their heart. In the future, we need to realize that parks have so much to offer for our families, health, and community.

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