Background: Few studies have considered using environmental amenities to explain social health inequalities.Nevertheless, Green spaces that promote good health may have an effect on socioeconomic health inequalities. In developed countries, there is considerable evidence that green spaces have a beneficial effect on the health of urban populations and recent studies suggest they can have a positive effect on pregnancy outcomes. To investigate the relationship between green spaces and the spatial distribution of infant mortality taking account neighborhood deprivation levels.
Methods: The study took place in Lyon metropolitan area, France. All infant deaths that occurred between 2000 and 2009 were geocoded at census block level. Each census block was assigned greenness and socioeconomic deprivation levels. The spatial-scan statistic was used to identify high risk cluster of infant mortality according to these neighborhood characteristics.
Results: The spatial distribution of infant mortality was not random with a high risk cluster in the south east of the Lyon metropolitan area (p<0.003). This cluster disappeared (p=0.12) after adjustment for greenness level and socioeconomic deprivation, suggesting that these factors explain part of the spatial distribution of infant mortality. These results are discussed using a conceptual framework with 3 hypothetical pathways by which green spaces may have a beneficial effect on adverse pregnancy outcomes: (i) a psychological pathway, (ii) a physiological disruption process and (iii) an environmental pathway.
Conclusions: These results add some evidence to the hypothesis that there is a relationship between access to green spaces and pregnancy outcomes but further research is required to confirm this.