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Poorer Neighborhoods Often Have Less Safe Playgrounds
Date:1/21/2013

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Jan. 21 (HealthDay News) -- Most playgrounds are safe for children, but many of them -- particularly those in poorer neighborhoods -- need improvement, a Chicago-area survey found.

The good news is that many of the safety issues, such as increasing the depth of wood chips covering playground surfaces, are easily correctable. And a softer landing can mean the difference between a harmless fall and one that causes serious injury, an expert said.

When researchers later followed up on the less-than-safe playgrounds, many of the problems had been fixed.

"We gave our information to the park district, and they were able to improve the quality of playgrounds pretty dramatically," said senior study author Dr. Karen Sheehan, medical director of the Injury Prevention and Research Center at Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago.

"We're also making this data available to the communities so they know what's going on. It's often about mobilizing political will. We need to recognize that access to safe playgrounds is part of the obesity epidemic solution. If we can get kids outside with a nice place to play, they'll be more active," Sheehan said.

The study appeared online Jan. 21 and will be published in the February print issue of Pediatrics, along with an editorial by Dr. Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

"Playgrounds are more than just some equipment and mulch. Playgrounds and green spaces can pull neighborhoods together," Smith said. "They can help keep kids active and prevent childhood obesity. Play helps decrease unwanted behaviors and helps improve performance in the classroom. Play is a child's occupation. And, playgrounds are a place where they can challenge and push themselves to grow physically and socially."

There are about 500 playgrounds in the Chicago
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