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Could Your Neighborhood Affect Baby’s Health?​

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By Anisa Arsenault, Associate Editor
Updated September 18, 2016
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If the grass is really greener on the other side, then that’s the side moms-to-be should want to be on.

According to a new study from Oregon State University, mothers who live in neighborhoods with plenty of green vegetation (like trees and grass) are more likely to deliver at full term than mothers in less green urban areas. Their babies also tend to be born at higher weights.

Lead study author Perry Hystad says this comes as a surprise. “We expected the association between greenness and birth outcomes to disappear once we accounted for other environmental exposures such as air pollution and noise. The research really suggests that greenness affects birth outcomes in other ways, such as psychologically or socially.”

So even green spaces with lackluster air quality proved beneficial to birth outcomes. Maybe it’s because green spaces lessen depression, boosting maternal health. Basically, researchers don’t know what the deal is. But the numbers speak for themselves: out of the 64,000 births followed, extreme preterm births were 20 percent lower for babies whose mothers lived in greener areas. And fewer infants from these areas were considered small for their gestational age.

Why is this so important? Over 50 percent of the world’s population lives in urban areas. and Hystad says planting a tree or adding a patio isn’t going to solve the problem. “You don’t really see the beneficial effects of green space until you reach a certain threshold of greenness in a neighborhood," he says.

What that threshold is, however, is unclear. But according to researcher Michael Brauer, better incorporating green space into urban design could be an "extremely cost-effective strategies to prevent disease, while at the same time also providing ecological benefits.”

More parks, please!

How green is your neighborhood?

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