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SCIBAR | Support for Creative Integrated Basic and Applied Research

Can restoring vacant lots improve adolescent health disparities?

Primary Investigators

  • Kristin Mmari, DrPH
    Population, Family, and Reproductive Health,
    Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Co-Investigators and Partners

  • Beth Marshall
    Population, Family, and Reproductive Health,
    Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
  • Frank Curriero
    Epidemiology,
    Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
  • Tamar Mendelson
    Mental Health,
    Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
  • Megan Latshaw
    Environmental Health and Engineering,
    Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
  • Jamie Harding 
    Environmental Health and Engineering,
    Johns Hopkins University
  • Y. Natalia Alfonso
    Population, Family, and Reproductive Health, 
    Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
  • Seema Iyer
    Baltimore Neighborhood Indicator Alliance
  • Dexter Locke 
    United States Forest Service
  • Michelle Kondo
    United States Forest Service
  • Morgan Grove
    United States Forest Service
  • Naomi  Sachs 
    University of Maryland
  • Katie  Lautar
    Baltimore Green Space
  • Karl Schrass
    National Recreation and Park Association

Abstract

People living near vacant lots and abandoned buildings exhibit poor health; fortunately, recent research has shown that when vacant lots are greened and restored, the health of residents greatly improves. To date, most of this research has focused on adults. For our SCIBAR, we will expand on this body of evidence to determine whether and how restoring vacant lots can mitigate health inequalities among disadvantaged adolescents, whose health and well-being are strongly influenced by neighborhood factors. As part of this study, we will: 1) build a sharable database containing key characteristics of restored and unrestored vacant lots; 2) conduct a mixed-methods longitudinal study on changes in adolescent health associated with exposure to vacant lot restoration, 3) embed a cost-effectiveness study to determine the impact of different lot restoration programs on youth crime and violence, mental health, and food insecurity; and 4) develop and disseminate a blueprint for reducing adolescent health disparities through vacant lot restoration programs that can be adapted for different U.S. municipalities. While Baltimore City currently has over 18,000 vacant lots and 17,000 abandoned buildings, the City has developed a plan to ‘clean and green’ vacant lots in neighborhoods with large concentrations of vacancy. This provides us with a timely opportunity to explore the impact of vacant lot restoration on the health of adolescents living in disadvantaged neighborhoods, with findings that can be used to develop long-term strategies for improving adolescent health equity.