Objective: This study investigated the differences between the amount of shade covering typical activity areas in playgrounds of higher and lower socioeconomic status (SES) areas within metropolitan Sydney, Australia.
Methods: Using an established audit tool, surveyors visited 139 urban playgrounds and made 1,033 shade observations recording the estimated percentage of an activity area that was covered by shade and the type of shade available.
Results: Shade coverage was significantly associated with SES of an area and with type of activity area (p<0.001 for both), but not with time since last upgrade of playground (p=0.116). Activity areas in playgrounds in the lowest SES areas had 34% lower mean shade coverage (95%CI 18–50) than activity areas in playgrounds in the highest SES regions. The mean shade coverage for eating areas was found to be 35% higher (95%CI 27–43) than the main play areas for children.
Conclusions: This study highlights inequities in available shade for those living in lower SES urban areas. Furthermore, the results of this study are concerning from a skin cancer prevention perspective as the playground areas where children spend the majority of their time (the main play equipment and stand-alone equipment) were considerably less shaded than the eating areas.
Implications: Local government should ensure that the issue of playground shade is comprehensively addressed in all relevant planning and policy documents so that it becomes an increased priority when developing and upgrading parks and playgrounds.