A new study to be published in the February issue of Pediatrics shows how a public-private partnership between the Chicago Park District, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and Friends of the Parks has made vast improvements to failing playgrounds after receiving individual safety scores for almost 500 parks which enabled them to focus their repair and replacement efforts.
“The idea for this study came out of the Park District’s concern over quality and safety of its 500 plus playgrounds,” said Karen Sheehan, MD, MPH, an emergency medicine physician at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and Professor of Pediatrics and Preventive Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “We were able to identify those neighborhood playgrounds in the greatest need of improvement and the Park District has already made some significant improvements to ensure they are safe for our kids. In fact, out of the 181 playgrounds that earned failing scores in 2010, 85 percent were reassessed in 2011 and more than 40 percent earned passing grades.”
The survey, adopted from the National Program for Playground Safety, assessed items like age-appropriate design, fall surfacing, equipment maintenance and the surrounding physical environment. The majority are in fair condition. However, neighborhoods with a higher percentage of children and impoverished families had fewer or failing playgrounds.
“We believe that play is essential to the healthy growth and development of our children,” said Sheehan. “Playgrounds can play an important role in supporting this type of activity especially in dense urban environments like Chicago.”
“Chicago’s children top our priority list,” said Chicago Park District General Superintendent & CEO Mike Kelly. “Therefore, it is critical that we continue to make investments to improve our playgrounds and develop partnerships that help explore new and innovative ways to ensure children in all neighborhoods can access these valuable resources.”
Sheehan believes that making parks safer does not have to be overly expensive. ”Continuing to make simple, cost-effective interventions, such as replacing wood chips, repairing broken equipment, and removing unsafe equipment can significantly improve the safety of playgrounds,” she said.
The study was supported by the Kohl’s Cares for Kids Safety Network and Northwestern University’s Community-Engaged Research Center Geospatial Analysis Mini-Grant.
Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, formerly
Children’s Memorial Hospital, is a 23-story, state-of-the-art hospital
located in downtown Chicago on the campus of its academic partner, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Lurie Children’s is ranked as one of the nation’s top children’s hospitals in the
U.S.News & World Report 2013-14
Honor Roll rankings. Lurie Children’s provides pediatric care in a
setting that offers the latest benefits and innovations in medical
technology, research and family-friendly design. The hospital relies on
philanthropic support to care for more than 149,000 children each year.