Journal of Public Health

, Volume 27, Issue 5, pp 669–674 | Cite as

Shade in playgrounds: findings from a nationwide survey and implications for urban health policy

  • Ryan GageEmail author
  • N. Wilson
  • L. Signal
  • G. Thomson
Original Article



Providing effective shade in playgrounds may reduce children’s risk of sunburn, skin cancer, and heat stress, and increase play times. We aimed to determine the sufficiency of playground shade in New Zealand, a country with high skin cancer rates but limited research on regional shade practices.


A random sample of one playground per 10,000 population was selected from each territorial local authority (TLA), for a total of 559 playgrounds. Google Earth satellite and Street View images were used to estimate the amount of shade (trees or built structures) covering playground activity areas at solar noon on the summer solstice.


Most playgrounds (60%) had no shade over play equipment, seats, and tables. Playgrounds from more deprived areas were 43% less likely to have at least one source of shade (odds ratio = 0.57; 95% CI: 0.35–0.94). Shade sufficiency varied considerably between council regions, with the best shading practice observed in Waikato, Whangarei, and Wairarapa.


The findings support policy efforts to increase shade nationwide. Establishing minimum standards for playground shade and showcasing successful efforts to date may help encourage TLAs with less shade to improve. Moreover, the display of sun safety signage may help promote sun protection behaviour among playground visitors.


Shade Sun protection Skin cancer Google earth Urban open space 



This work was supported by Cancer Society of New Zealand, Wellington Division. The funder had no role in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data, nor in the writing of the paper, nor in the decision to publish.

Compliance with ethical standards

This research does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Supplementary material

10389_2018_990_MOESM1_ESM.docx (19 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 19 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Otago, WellingtonWellingtonNew Zealand

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