Cast from beds unmade,
weary bones and aching hearts
cry out for some return.
A thousand shades of green
drowned by waves of stilted grey,
high-water marks of progress
against the tonal shifts
of nature’s loss.
We catch glimpses in the chrome –
avenues of shaded leaves,
gardens hung from balconies,
and roadside trees.
Cures that we have always known,
that were once our home.
This poem is inspired by recent research, which has found that neighbourhood green space is tied to lower healthcare costs.
According to the World Health Organisation, urban green spaces (such as parks, playgrounds, and residential greenery), can promote mental and physical health, and reduce morbidity and mortality by providing stress alleviation, supporting physical activity, and reducing exposure to air pollutants, noise, and excessive heat.
In this new study, researchers used satellite data to determine the amount of green space within 250, 500, and 1,000 meters of the home address of more than 5 million people who were members of the healthcare provider Kaiser Permanente Northern California for at least 2 years between 2003 and 2015. They then determined the individual care costs for each patient, considering age, gender, race/ethnicity, air quality, and neighbourhood characteristics such as income, education level, housing density, and population density. The research found that on average, people who lived near greater amounts of green space were more likely to be older, male, white, and have higher income and education levels. However, even allowing for these different factors, the annual average healthcare cost was found to be $374 lower per person per year for those living near the most green space than it was for those living near the least green space. This research therefore raises the possibility that residential greening can have a significant healthcare cost impact across the population. It also further highlights the need to ensure that green space is made available to all citizens, especially those from more deprived areas, who typically have less access.