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Health Indicator Report of Community Design: Access to Parks and Elementary Schools

In a well-designed community, homes, parks, stores, and schools are connected by safe walking and biking routes. Such routes allow all members of the community a chance to enjoy the outdoors and improve physical and mental health. The closer you live to a park or school, the more likely you are to walk or bike to those places. However, only a small number of people in the United States live within half a mile of a park or public school.


Data are extracted from the National Environmental Public Health Tracking Network using their API. Park data: Number of people within a buffer of a mile radius of a park was determined at the census tract level. These estimates are aggregated to county, state, and national levels. Percentages of people living within a half mile of the park boundary are calculated for the census tract, county, state, and national levels. Schools data: The National Center for Educational Statistics dataset provides street address information that is converted to a latitude and longitude representing school locations as a single point instead of polygonal. Representing schools as a single point makes their spatial information sensitive to even small fluctuations in geocoding accuracy and underestimates the number of people within half mile of some piece of their property. Census data: The US Census is updated only every 10 years, so 5-9 year old children in 2010 will be out of the age range in 2015.

Data Interpretation Issues

The estimates for the population residing within a half-mile of a park are derived estimates. The area-proportion estimates for race and ethnic subgroups are limited to 2010 data. Hispanic, White Non-Hispanic, Black Non-Hispanic, Other Non-Hispanic, and Multirace Non-Hispanic were summed to determine the total proportion for each block. Each of these estimates were rounded at each of the geographic aggregation units then summed for the total half-mile population estimate. We employed this approach to maintain internal consistency within the county, state, and national estimates. It is possible a statistically insignificant difference in the estimate could occur due to rounding. Parks: Using percent of population living within a half mile of a park as a proxy for proximity may underestimate the number of people who have access to parks in populations that are willing to travel farther to reach a park. Similarly, people may use parks located close to their schools or places of work rather than parks close to their homes. Conversely, this may overestimate access since walk routes to park entrances may be unsafe or much farther than a direct line from a residence to a park boundary. Schools: Living in close proximity to a school does not guarantee active commuting; there are additional factors, including personal preference, safety, and convenience, that families may consider when deciding how to travel to a school. Radial proximity may also be different from the actual distance that families travel along street networks to reach a school. Low street segment connectivity, poor intersection density, traffic congestion, and road condition may make the actual distance traveled longer than that assumed through radial measures, which may influence children's type of transportation to school. Additionally, data entry errors and omissions may be inherent in the data.


Proximity of residential neighborhoods to parks and public elementary schools


Number of people living within a half mile of a park [[br]][[br]] Number of children ages 5-9 years living within a half mile of a park


Total number of people in each geographic unit (i.e., county)[[br]][[br]] Children ages 5-9 years
Page Content Updated On 07/10/2018, Published on 03/30/2022
The information provided above is from the Department of Health's Center for Health Data IBIS-PH web site ( The information published on this website may be reproduced without permission. Please use the following citation: " Retrieved Sun, 04 June 2023 0:56:03 from Department of Health, Center for Health Data, Indicator-Based Information System for Public Health Web site: ".

Content updated: Wed, 30 Mar 2022 13:59:48 MDT