Prescription for Public Open Space: Locating New Public Open Space to Combat Obesity in New Orleans
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Literature suggests that many of the current approaches to developing new public open space focus on individual parcels of land and the ease of their acquisition rather than their location and value within a larger system. One concern of these approaches is that they result in neglecting communities or populations at risk of many health issues. This oversight results in greater societal costs, including increased strain on the health care system. This project focuses on addressing the communities at risk of obesity and their access and proximity to public open space. The estimated cost of obesity on our society was $218 billion in 2007 alone. Much research exists that correlates proximity to public open space with decreased risks for obesity. Despite this research and the development of rating systems like SITES and LEED ND, a gap still exists where designing open space networks to address obesity has not been integrated into city open space planning processes in the United States. This project develops both an evaluative tool derived from five case studies of open space networks and a prioritization process that utilizes spatial analysis to prioritize sites for expansion of New Orleans’ open space network. After the sites for expansion were designed, the entire network was evaluated using the case study criteria to reveal system changes as a result of the design. The resulting design shows that communities in New Orleans that are most at-risk for obesity are also the communities that have the most vacant or available land for development as public open space. This project identifies sites where New Orleans’ open space network could be increased by 14.83 acres or 0.5% of the total open space to allow 10,600 citizens (31% obesity rate of census tracts with priority sites) access to an open space within 1/4 mile of their home. This approach can be adapted to local priorities and utilized in other cities.