Project VITAL

Vacant lot Improvement to Transform Adolescent Lives


Can restoring vacant lots improve adolescent health disparities?

People living near vacant lots and abandoned buildings exhibit poor health…But, growing evidence suggests that when vacant lots are greened and restored, the health of nearby residents improves.

Our Mission

Abstract: To date, most research has focused on adults. For our SCIBAR Project, we will expand on this body of evidence to determine whether and how restoring vacant lots can mitigate health inequalities among disadvantaged adolescents, whose health and well-being are strongly influenced by neighborhood factors. While Baltimore City currently has over 18,000 vacant lots and 17,000 abandoned buildings, the City has developed a plan to ‘clean and green’ vacant lots in neighborhoods with large concentrations of vacancy. This provides us with a timely opportunity to explore the impact of vacant lot restoration on the health of adolescents living in disadvantaged neighborhoods, with findings that can be used to develop long-term strategies for improving adolescent health equity.

Mckean before
Mckean before photo
McKean after
Mckean after photo

Our Plan

1) Build a sharable database containing key characteristics of restored and unrestored vacant lots;

2) Conduct a mixed-methods longitudinal study on changes in adolescent health associated with exposure to vacant lot restoration,

3) Embed a cost-effectiveness study to determine the impact of different lot restoration programs on youth crime and violence, mental health, and food insecurity; and

4) Develop and disseminate a blueprint for reducing adolescent health disparities through vacant lot restoration programs that can be adapted for different U.S. municipalities.

Our Youth Advisory Board (YAB)

The Youth Advisory Board is made up of five young people who serve and assist us in the design and implimentation of the study.

Our Youth Advisory Board members: Norah Thomas; Christopher Baldwin; Solai Taylor; Sabree Plater; Amari Rogers

Mckean before
'Before' photo of McKean
Mckean after
'After' photo of McKean
Mckean before
'Before' photo of McKean
Mckean after
'After' photo of McKean

The Team

Filter:
Anton Kvit
Anton Kvit

JHSPH

Rebecca Fix
Rebecca Fix

JHSPH

Ross Hatton
Ross Hatton

JHSPH

Jamie Harding
Jamie Harding

Center for Livable Future

Morgan Grove
Morgan Grove

USDA Forest Service

Dexter Locke
Dexter Locke

USDA Forest Service

Michelle Kondo
Michelle Kondo

USDA Forest Service

Seema Iyer
Seema Iyer

Baltimore Neighborhood Indicator Alliance

Charles Karpati
Charles Karpati

Baltimore Neighborhood Indicator Alliance

Allison Jennings-Roche
Allison Jennings-Roche

Baltimore Neighborhood Indicator Alliance

Cheryl Knott
Cheryl Knott

Baltimore Neighborhood Indicator Alliance

Kimberly Knox
Kimberly Knox

Baltimore City Office of Sustainability

Katie Lautar
Katie Lautar

Baltimore Green Space

Laura Connelly
Laura Connelly

Parks and People

Naomi Sachs
Naomi Sachs

University of Maryland

John Ciekot
John Ciekot

Civics Works

Meghan Hazer
Meghan Hazer

Department of Public Works (DPW)

Anika Richter
Anika Richter

Baltimore City Office of Sustainability

Anika Richter
Anika Richter

Master Gardener Project

UMD

Katherine Frey
Katherine Frey

Assistant Dean for Strategic Initiatives

JHSPH

Natasha Neale
Natasha Neale

Environmental Control Board/BMORE Beautiful

A VITAL Story

Lack of knowledge on how greening influences adolescent health

A large body of evidence shows that adolescents living in poor versus affluent neighborhoods face much higher risks to their health, which can have long-lasting negative effects well into adulthood. In Baltimore City, this is especially true among Black adolescents, who tend to live in the most impoverished, physically deprived neighborhoods characterized by high mortality rates, low academic achievement, and high levels of crime and violence. While investment in neighborhood development is urgently needed, there is limited understanding of which types of neighborhood investment matter most for adolescents.

Health Equity

This project is specifically designed to assess the impact of neighborhood-level change strategies on health inequities for marginalized populations. The presence of green space is widely viewed as a key health-promoting characteristic of residential environments and has been linked to stress reduction, neighborhood social cohesion, reductions in crime, violence and aggression, and better self-reported health. Given that the strongest health benefits of green space exposure have been found among lower socioeconomic groups, it has been suggested that green spaces could be “systematically deployed to mitigate health inequalities” in addition to improving health overall.

Significance

While previous research has demonstrated that individuals who live in areas that lack green space are more vulnerable to poor health compared to those who live near abundant green space61, ecological studies consistently show that individuals living in the most disadvantaged neighborhoods have less access to green space22,62-64. With increasing urbanization, this access to green space will likely decrease unless a concerted effort is made to ensure that these trends are reversed. The work associated with this SCIBAR will therefore provide critical information for how state and local agencies should invest in vacant lot restoration to improve social and economic conditions within disadvantaged neighborhoods, including the key goal of increasing adolescent health equity.

Baltimore City currently has over 18,000 vacant lots and 17,000 abandoned buildings.

Contact Us

Johns Hopkins University Logo
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health;
  • Principal Investigator: Kristin Mmari, Dr.PH, MA; Associate Professor;
  • Department of Population, Family, and Reproductive Health
  • 615 N. Wolfe Street
  • Baltimore MD, 21205

Our team comprises a multi-sectoral collaboration of individuals and organizations including:

  • Researchers across four different departments in JHSPH, University of Maryland, Baltimore Neighborhood Indicator Alliance at University of Baltimore, as well as the U.S. Forest Service
  • State and local agencies, including the Baltimore Office of Sustainability and the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, and
  • Community-based organizations, including Baltimore Green Space, Parks and People Foundation, and National Recreation and Parks Association
  • And more are joining

This study is funded by the Bloomberg American Health Initiative as part of the SCIBAR Initiative/

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CONTACT US

Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance
The Jacob France Institute
1420 N. Charles Street, Baltimore, MD 21201
410-837-4377 | [email protected]