Exploring the Impacts of Protected Areas’ Attributes on Pediatric Health: The Case for Additional Research beyond Greenspace

William L. Rice, Sarah Y. Michels, Miranda Foster, Jon Graham, Peter Whitney, Jennifer M. Thomsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


An increasingly vast segment of the literature examines the relationship between greenspace and pediatric health. However, the bulk of this research continues to use proximate relative greenness as a measure for exposure to the ecosystem services provisioned by natural areas, despite increasing recognition that relative greenness fails to capture the public accessibility, recreation potential, or desirability of natural areas. Thus, this present research demonstrates the use of emerging data sources that can be used in conjunction with traditional greenspace measures to improve modeling as it relates to nature’s impacts on pediatric health. Using spatial park and protected area data in concert with mobile phone location data, we demonstrate exploratory analysis on how park and protected area attributes may influence pediatric health in northwest Montana, USA. Suggestive findings concerning how the attributes of park and protected areas (i.e., conservation status, access, recreation demand) influence pediatric health (i.e., attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, asthma, and anxiety/mood disorders) lead us to introduce directions for future research beyond greenspace. Importantly, this research does not intend to provide definitive or generalizable findings concerning how parks and protected areas influence pediatric health. Instead, we aim to provide an initial exploration toward a larger, future body of the literature, evaluating parks and protected areas’ influence on pediatric health.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1613
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2023


  • beyond greenspace
  • outdoor recreation
  • parks and protected areas
  • pediatric health


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