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How does extreme heat affect Austin kids?

Parks and Rec gets a grant to find out

Smiling girl with light brown skin on a pink bike riding in a field.
Austin will study how heat affects its kids
Getty Images

The effects of the extreme heat Austin has been increasingly experiencing will soon be the subject of a study by the Austin Parks and Recreation Department, thanks to a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The health-focused philanthropy group awarded PARD $341,000 for the study, which will focus on the physical and emotional effects of worsening heat due to climate change, specifically on children. Conducted by PARD’s Cities Connecting Children to Nature program, it will look at whether worsening heat decreases opportunities for physical activity and reduces the overall emotional well-being of young people.

PARD’s study will look at three elementary-school parks—Barrington, Cook, and Odom—which serve primarily Latino, economically disadvantaged areas of the city. According to press materials, “Latino children from low income families have been found to live in areas characterized by urban heat islands and exhibit lower physical activity levels and higher risk of heat illness than other groups.”

The impact of green infrastructure—trees, nature trails, and gardens, in this case—on the heat index, children’s physical activity, and outcomes from park use will be examined in the study, with the goal of determining if there is a correlation between the presence of green infrastructure and children’s physical and emotional health.

The two-year project is a collaboration between PARD, the Michael and Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living, the Children and Nature Network, and the Austin Independent School District. Results of the study are expected to be published in the spring of 2021.