The open, green space of the Central Experimental Farm boosts people’s physical health, say two Carleton University professors who don’t want 60 acres re-developed as a hospital.
Paul Villeneuve has published two recent studies on the effects of green space in Canadian cities. One concludes green spaces clean the air and give other direct health benefits; the other says it makes people — especially young women — more active outdoors.
The Ottawa Hospital is taking a second look at plans to build a new super hospital on 60 acres of Farm research fields due to ongoing public concern about the choice of site.
Villeneuve, of Carleton’s Department of Health Sciences, compared satellite images of urban vegetation and health data on 575,000 Canadians ages 35 and older.
His group found that living near green space is associated with a lower risk of death from a wide variety of causes, and that green space is especially good for respiratory health.
“Greenness in urban areas has been linked to a number of healthy behaviours including reduced obesity, increased participation in physical activity, and facilitate social interaction that come with their own health benefits,” Villeneuve wrote.
“Greenness in urban areas has also been linked to a number of important health outcomes including improved sleep quality, reduced stress, and lower mortality (number of deaths). These effects have been observed in both affluent, and low income neighbourhoods.”
David Miller, a Carleton chemistry professor who studies air quality and health, cites Treasury Board figures that about 2,000 people live within one kilometre of the farm and 210,000 live within five kilometres.
“Those living near the farm materially benefit. The interesting thing that is you have to admit is that a lot of people live pretty near the farm.”
He wants the farm’s role in our air quality to be studied soon, “regardless of the hospital issue.”
“We all share the airshed… So you are in some sense affecting the whole community when you pave over land.”