Projects / Programmes source: ARIS

The role of open space in urban neighbourhoods for the healthy childhood and active ageing

Research activity

Code Science Field Subfield
5.08.00  Social sciences  Urbanism   

Code Science Field
S240  Social sciences  Town and country planning 

Code Science Field
5.07  Social Sciences  Social and economic geography 
Public health, open surfaces, demographic changes, spatial planning, healthy ageing, healthy growing up, healthy behavioural style
Evaluation (rules)
source: COBISS
Researchers (8)
no. Code Name and surname Research area Role Period No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  06255  MSc Barbara Černič Mali  Urbanism  Technical associate  2016 - 2017  318 
2.  16378  PhD Mojca Golobič  Urbanism  Head  2016 - 2017  477 
3.  20405  PhD Gregor Jurak  Educational studies  Researcher  2016 - 2017  1,122 
4.  18704  PhD Marjeta Kovač  Educational studies  Researcher  2016 - 2017  1,503 
5.  37639  PhD Katarina Ana Lestan  Control and care of the environment  Researcher  2016 - 2017  59 
6.  28550  PhD Naja Marot  Urbanism  Researcher  2016 - 2017  281 
7.  22384  PhD Gregor Starc  Sport  Researcher  2016 - 2017  770 
8.  21511  MSc Biba Tominc  Urbanism  Researcher  2016 - 2017  140 
Organisations (3)
no. Code Research organisation City Registration number No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  0481  University of Ljubljana, Biotechnical Faculty  Ljubljana  1626914  66,949 
2.  0505  Urban planning Institute of the Republic of Slovenia  Ljubljana  5051703000  2,755 
3.  0587  University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Sport  Ljubljana  1627040  19,306 
Healthy growing up and active ageing are the themes that were neglected in the practice of urban planning during transition period in Slovenia, since with the transition in the market economy other motives of spatial planning are often in the foreground, although urban planning emerged precisely with the purpose of assuring public health. Recent collective building construction normally does not allow adequate physical activity to the most vulnerable groups of users, which are children and the elderly. Environment that does not promote daily exercise with accesibility to services on food and facilities to spend time outside is an indirect cause for less healthy life style of children and the elderly. Consequences for the vulnerable groups of city inhabitants are smaller physical efficiency of children, they become overfed, while the consequences for the elderly include larger number of falls due to smaller mobility and coordination and faster development of various forms of help at home or faster need for inclusion in retirement homes. The proposed research will develop an interdisciplinary approach to connect urban planning with public health, focusing on physical activity as one of the key aspects of healthy life style, and on school children and elderly city inhabitants living at home as the two key groups. The research methods include (1) quantitative analysis of spatial data and data on motor abilities and physical characteristics of children on the level of the selected school districts of the Municipality of Ljubljana and (2) qualitative approaches, such as questionnaires and focus groups with children, with parents and teachers in selected schools, where we will try to establish the importance of outdoor space in school districts in the way of spending free time of children and the elderly and the standpoints of the parents and teachers regarding the issues. Within focus groups an art competition for primary school children will be organised on the theme of spending of free time. Its intetion is to find out the importance and the ways how children use and perceive outdoors. The results and their presentation will address researchers, urban planners and those who prepare and implement urban policies as well as general public. They will be presented in the form of papers in scientific journals and presentations at conferences, professional and general media. With interdisciplinary connection of the areas of public health and planning, which is in practice not regularly done, the connection between possibilities to spend time on green surfaces of cities and healthy life style will be established. Another expected finding will be what the users in space consider as main obstacles against using green surfaces or connections in the city in an active way. In this way, with better spatial planning, the physical activity of the inhabitants would increase and at the same time the rate of incidence of chronical non-contagious diseases would decrease, which could implant physical activity in the life style of children and change it into a healthy habit remaining in their lives until old age. Further on, the possibility of old-age dependence and long-term care would decrease, while the time of their ability to work would extend.
Significance for science
The meaning of this research for the urban planning is in the implementation of the interdisciplinary approach, linking the planning concepts and methods with those from the physical activity research and public health. The research contributes to the integrated approach to the quality of life in cities, including the participatory approach to evaluation and planning of the open space. The results have supported the meaning of the open space quality for its active use by children and the elderly and thus for an overall improvement of active life style, in particular in suburban areas and small towns. They also contribute to awareness of equality in terms of quality and healthy environment. The proposed assessment method has been empirically tested with both user groups and the high correlations argue for its usefulness in planning and monitoring of urban open space. The research applied and verified the applicability of walkability index as proposed in the literature (Leslie E., Cerin E. et al., 2007; Frank et al., 2005; 2004; 2010; Leslie E., Coffee N. et al., 2007; Owen et al., 2007; Sundquist et al., 2011), in the context of small towns and specific user groups, the studies of which have not yet been reported in the literature. The results support the reliability of walkability index for predicting active commuting (to school, for errands) but is not as useful for predicting active open space use for other motives (leisure, play, recreation), which require application of qualitative criteria as proposed in this research. The research also disclosed new insights in the complexity of motives and restrictions for active open space use of the two observed user groups. These are for example linked to physical activity of girls, elderly, school computing, reduction of roaming space etc.
Significance for the country
Despite relatively good organization of sport activity in primary schools in Slovenia, this research identified certain shortcomings. Findings on reduced physical activity of teenagers call for reflection on the organization of school time, in particular considering the scientific proofs of the relation between physical and cognitive capacities. Particular attentions should be paid to the teenage girls, for which the level of physical fitness drops most dramatically. Schools and decision makers will benefit from the suggestions on physical activity of children, which is indirectly related to school, i.e. transport to and from school and related free time that children spend in the school surroundings. The research emphasizes the importance of physically active transport to school. The research identified a particular group of children using mixed and public transport which requires further analysis to identify the amount of actively spent time. In the field of spatial planning the research identified the main problem of weak coordination between the actors: the housing development is led by individual investors, while the municipalities are responsible for the open space, and are not always successful in providing adequate open and green space. On the other hand, the transport is being planned by the transportation authorities, often with motorized transport as a priority. The method, which was developed for the assessment of the school district open space quality, could be used to guide and monitor the quality of open space in particular from the aspect of vulnerable groups, as the results correlate well with their opinions. Considering the suggestions based on the research results would contribute to more equality in terms of health and quality of environment for children as well as elderly.
Most important scientific results Interim report, final report
Most important socioeconomically and culturally relevant results Interim report, final report
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