Parklets, Social Media and Public Health

  • Michael Obrien Texas A&M University


The state of public health in America is being significantly eroded by rising rates of Hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, Stroke, Coronary heart disease, and mental illness related consequences of obesity. (CDC Adult Obesity 2017) The small postwar American city is reviewed with emphasis on walkability, food deserts, public health and sedentary lifestyles. Food, both prepared and unprepared as well as social and health screening services, delivered in close proximity (the five minute walk) to ones residence is proposed as an incentive for walking, thus eroding the sedentary lifestyle and mitigating some associated long term health effects. A combination of social movements (parklets), mobile prepared food outlets (food trucks) and social media (Twitter, Facebook) are proposed as enabling elements notifying residents of food or services available, when the food or services will be nearby, and allow for pre-purchasing to insure successful resident’s shopping. A network of these parklets is proposed as a public health infrastructure element, much like a municipal water or sewage system. The network insures proximity for residents (five minute walks) and assures vendors of a larger market for their goods and services. This paper presents a proposal to bring together small public spaces, neighborhood centers, with a social media enabled micro-economy to offer an incentive to sedentary city residents to make a small walk to their neighborhood “parklet” to obtain goods and services. This proposes remodeling the American Suburb. The paper investigates the relationship between the post-war shift from walkable neighborhood designs to autooriented neighborhood designs and proposes the pre-WWII approach to walkability, the “Neighborhood Unit” as a part of the solution to the health crisis arising out of sedentary life. This paper focuses on the potential for developing the network of “Parklets” as part of a community’s public health infrastructure. The paper will further introduce the role of a social media enabled micro-economy, the state of city codes and regulations impacting “parklets” across the U.S. and prototype designs of temporary and more permanent “parklets”.

How to Cite
Obrien, M. (2018). Parklets, Social Media and Public Health. ARCC Conference Repository.