The intersecting negative effects of structural racism, COVID-19, climate change, and chronic diseases disproportionately affect racial and ethnic minorities in the US and around the world. Urban populations of color are concentrated in historically redlined, segregated, disinvested, and marginalized neighborhoods with inadequate quality housing and limited access to resources, including quality greenspaces designed to support natural ecosystems and healthy outdoor activities while mitigating urban environmental challenges such as air pollution, heat island effects, combined sewer overflows and poor water quality. Disinvested urban environments thus contribute to health inequity via physical and social environmental exposures, resulting in disparities across numerous health outcomes, including COVID-19 and chronic diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases (CVD). In this paper, we build off an existing conceptual framework and propose another conceptual framework for the role of greenspace in contributing to resilience and health equity in the US and beyond. We argue that strategic investments in public greenspaces in urban neighborhoods impacted by long term economic disinvestment are critically needed to adapt and build resilience in communities of color, with urgency due to immediate health threats of climate change, COVID-19, and endemic disparities in chronic diseases. We suggest that equity-focused investments in public urban greenspaces are needed to reduce social inequalities, expand economic opportunities with diversity in workforce initiatives, build resilient urban ecosystems, and improve health equity. We recommend key strategies and considerations to guide this investment, drawing upon a robust compilation of scientific literature along with decades of community-based work, using strategic partnerships from multiple efforts in Milwaukee Wisconsin as examples of success.
Keywords: COVID-19; cancer; cardiovascular diseases (CVD); climate change; greenspace; health disparities; health equity; resilience; structural racism; urban neighborhoods.