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Greenspace Assessment for Marion County

SAVI Talks - April 20, 2023

Greenspace can offer a variety of both health and environmental benefits to communities. While relationships between greenspace and human and environmental health can be complex, in general, greenspace has been associated with beneficial effects for human health and the environment.

For example, research has found greenspace to be related to a reduction in incidence of several health outcomes such as all-cause mortality, type II diabetes, preterm birth, and cardiovascular mortality. 

Additionally, greenspace can reduce the negative influence urban areas often have on the environment, such as through reducing overall atmospheric particulate matter pollution and mitigating the urban heat island effect.1 Indianapolis is known to have a significant urban heat island effect due to its large, sprawling metropolitan area.

Read the report to learn more by clicking the button above.

You may find the resources below of use as well:

In addition, questions and responses from the report panel discussion that may be helpful are included below.

  • Regarding the health outcomes link to Greenspaces. Is this a causation or a correlation?

The answer is that there probably is a bit of correlation without causation. Trying to differentiate confounding variables is difficult when looking at greenspace and health outcomes, and not all studies can properly isolate for the effects of greenspace on health outcomes alone. However, there is literature that has controlled for confounding variables suggesting there is indeed causation behind correlations of greenspace and health, not attributable to outside factors. However, this can vary depending on location and the population studied.

  •  How does someone find job opportunities at organizations that do this type of work?

There are direct sites like There also are sites like

  • Are there more sophisticated tools (like machine learning or other tools that could evaluate Lidar or aerials to assess existing green ground cover) could be used to provide a more granular analysis of community greenspace in the near future? Like in a grid or hex pattern instead of by tract?

Great question! The short answer is yes–lots of great remote sensing AI capabilities being done in many areas, although this hasn’t been done recently in Indiana to my knowledge, and can be a bit expensive. Commonly, the Landsat Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) is used to quantify vegetation greenness and can be quite granular. However, when trying to compare greenspace measurements from remote sensing data to other important components like community health, it is hard to do it at levels more granular than the census tract due to data availability limitations for things like asthma rates, life expectancy, household income, etc.

  • How could land use patterns be factored into the GreenSpace Need map that Mr. Dietrich presented earlier?

Great question–that is something that we’ve struggled with too, particularly because things like the Landsat Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI, commonly used for greenspace assessment) have trouble differentiating land use patterns if vegetation looks similar. Something we thought about trying to do is look at individual parcel data and do some analyses with that, but admittingly that would take a lot of time.

Greenspace indices and socioeconomic variables

SAVI Talks Presentation

Articles and Story Maps

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Report Authors, Event Moderator, and Panelists

Matthew Dietrich, PhD, Senior Research Data Analyst, Polis Center

Danielle Lafever, GIS Project Coordinator, Polis Center

Asger Ali, PhD, GIS Analyst, Polis Center

Aaron Olson, Research Data Analyst, Polis Center

Brittani Howell, Community Engagement Specialist, WFYI/Side Effects Public Media

Dr. Sarah Mincey, Clinical Assoc. Professor, O’Neill School of Public and Environment Affairs and Managing Director, Environmental Resilience, Indiana University

Jeremy Kranowitz, President & CEO, Keep Indianapolis Beautiful

Jacob Brinkman, Ecologist, Indianapolis Office of Land Stewardship


Event Partners