Study of active neighborhoods in Detroit (StAND): Study protocol for a natural experiment evaluating the health benefits of ecological restoration of parks

Amber L. Pearson*, Karin A. Pfeiffer, Joseph Gardiner, Teresa Horton, Rachel T. Buxton, Ruth F. Hunter, Victoria Breeze, Thomas McDade

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Background: Individuals living in deprived inner cities have disproportionately high rates of cancers, Type 2 diabetes and obesity, which have stress- and physical inactivity-related etiologies. This study aims to quantify effects of ecological park restoration on physical activity, stress and cardio-metabolic health outcomes. Methods: The Study of Active Neighborhoods in Detroit is a quasi-experimental, longitudinal panel natural experiment with two conditions (restored park intervention (INT) and control (CNT)) and annual measurements at baseline and 3-years post-restoration. Individuals (sampled within 500 m of an INT/CNT park) serve as the unit of analysis. Restoration (n = 4 parks) involves replacing non-native plants and turf with native plants; creating trails; posting signage; and leading community stewardship events. The CNT condition (n = 5) is an unmaintained park, matched to INT based on specified neighborhood conditions. Recruitment involves several avenues, with a retention goal of 450 participants. Park measures include plant/avian diversity; usage of the park (SOPARC); signs of care; auditory environment recordings; and visual greenness using 360 imagery. Health outcomes include device-based physical activity behavior (primary outcome); salivary cortisol (secondary outcome); and several downstream health outcomes. Exposure to the INT will be assessed through visual contact time and time spent in the park using GPS data. Changes in health outcomes between years and INT versus CNT will be tested using generalized linear (mixed) models. Discussion: Our study will examine whether restored urban greenspaces increase physical activity and lower stress, with public health planning implications, where small changes in neighborhood greenspaces may have large health benefits in low-income neighborhoods. Study Registration: Registration: OSF Preregistration registered March 31, 2020. Accessible from

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number638
JournalBMC public health
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 7 2020


  • Built environment
  • Green exercise
  • Greenspace
  • Low-income
  • Physical activity
  • Stress
  • Urban planning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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