Journal of Urban Health

, Volume 92, Issue 5, pp 800–814 | Cite as

Nature-Based Strategies for Improving Urban Health and Safety

  • Michelle C. Kondo
  • Eugenia C. South
  • Charles C. Branas


Place-based programs are being noticed as key opportunities to prevent disease and promote public health and safety for populations at-large. As one key type of place-based intervention, nature-based and green space strategies can play an especially large role in improving health and safety for dwellers in urban environments such as US legacy cities that lack nature and greenery. In this paper, we describe the current understanding of place-based influences on public health and safety. We focus on nonchemical environmental factors, many of which are related to urban abandonment and blight. We then review findings from studies of nature-based interventions regarding impacts on health, perceptions of safety, and crime. Based on our findings, we suggest that further research in this area will require (1) refined measures of green space, nature, and health and safety for cities, (2) interdisciplinary science and cross-sector policy collaboration, (3) observational studies as well as randomized controlled experiments and natural experiments using appropriate spatial counterfactuals and mixed methods, and (4) return-on-investment calculations of potential economic, social, and health costs and benefits of urban greening initiatives.


Urban nature Green space Place-based interventions Public health Crime 



This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health ([NIH] grant R01AA020331 to C. C. B.) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ([CDC] grant R49CE002474), with additional funding from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), Forest Service (to M. C. K.). The NIH and CDC had no role in designing or conducting the study, collecting, managing, analyzing, or interpreting the data, preparing, reviewing, or approving the article, or deciding to submit the article for publication.


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Copyright information

© The New York Academy of Medicine (outside the USA) 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.USDA-Forest Service, Northern Research StationPhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Emergency MedicinePerelman School of Medicine at the University of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA
  3. 3.Department of Biostatistics and EpidemiologyPerelman School of Medicine at the University of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA

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