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UWI SCIENCE: The Science of Emancipation Park – More than Meets the Eye

Dr. Colette Cunningham-Myrie (left), Dr. Tamika Royal-Thomas (right)

The Emancipation Park has been a pivotal and beautiful sight in the New Kingston area of Jamaica. It’s a popular place where members of the public go to relax and to exercise. In this novel study, Colette Cunningham-Myrie (Department of Community Health and Psychiatry), Tamika Royal-Thomas (Department of Mathematics) and other colleagues from The UWI and Tulane University (USA) examine how persons utilize the different parts of the well-used park for physical activity. It is one of the first attempts to scientifically analyse the value of a public park in an urban setting in the Caribbean. 

The study revealed important differences in how the park is being used for exercise, depending on sex, age group and physical activity levels. For example, the study revealed that the park is being used mostly by females, in the evenings and by persons 18-64 years old. It is the beauty of the park, its central location within a business district, its standard of maintenance and available amenities (e.g. bathrooms and a jogging trail) and its safety and security (e.g. perimeter fencing and security guards) which motivate persons to use the park for exercise. On the other hand overcrowding and hot daytime temperatures were deterrents to its usage. The study provides important baseline information which should factor into the future design and establishment of similar public parks in the Caribbean. Given the prevalence of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and other diseases in the region, the study makes a strong scientific case for the use of public parks as a tool in the promotion of healthy lifestyles.  So, the next time you are at Emancipation Park, remember there is more to the aesthetics than meets the eye – the science says so!

To read the study: Cunningham-Myrie, C.A., Royal-Thomas, T.Y.N., Bailey A.E., Gustat J., Theall K.P., Harrison J.E. and Reid M.E.. Use of a public park for physical activity in the Caribbean: evidence from a mixed methods study in Jamaica. BMC Public Health 19, 894 (2019).

Published on 25 Feb, 2021

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