SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Three factors continually show up in research when people express what they want in a “healthy” neighborhood: safe, clean, and friendly. 

According to David Burton, a community development specialist with University of Missouri Extension, individuals can take actions that will improve these factors in their neighborhood.

“Purdue University is doing a research project for NeighborLink in Fort Wayne on neighborhoods and neighboring. From that research, they have discovered five key indicators of neighborhood health,” said Burton.


Neighborhood pride seems like a logical indicator of neighborhood health since an area that is unwelcoming, unlivable, and depressed is unlikely to have a strong sense of neighborhood pride. 

“If residents are not proud of their neighborhood or happy to live there, it is doubtful they will be willing to contribute to it or invest in it, and won’t have the same level of loyalty to the neighborhood as those that are proud,” said Burton.

The actions of one individual can help spark neighborhood pride.

“Social connectivity is a crucial indicator of neighborhood health because its absence causes neighborhood distress,” said Burton. “Social isolation is not suitable for anyone.”

This social connectivity might happen with neighborhood associations, a neighborhood newsletter of a Facebook page, or regular neighborhood events or get-togethers. While it can take many shapes, healthy neighborhoods must have some mechanism for connection.

The actions of one individual can help spark social connectivity.


“The indicator of safety encompasses more than crime statistics. It also includes the elements that influence a person’s feeling of safety, such as vacant lots,” said Burton.

For example, vacant land is often a blight that diminishes neighborhood pride and inhibits a sense of connection because it is a possible spot for crime, vermin, or dumping. 

The concept of neighborhood disorder (law-breaking, code violations, etc.) is included in this indicator of safety. 

“Neighborhood disorder should not be present, or present only in tiny amounts in a healthy neighborhood,” said Burton

The actions of one individual can help improve neighborhood safety.


“Recent studies have shown that when people believe their neighborhood is safe, clean, and beautiful, residents are happier,” said Burton

One critical element of neighborhood beauty is the greenery present in and around the neighborhood. 

Walkability was something neighbors in each location valued, and in green spaces like parks, it usually provides safe routes to bike or walk, plus neighborhoods that are not clean and beautiful will discourage walking in general. 

The actions of one individual can spark efforts to improve the cleanliness and beauty of a neighborhood.


“The city government has had a historically large impact on aiding or inhibiting neighborhood development and growth,” said Burton.

While neighborhoods need to direct their growth and improvements, most of them can benefit from outside partners to help them fill their needs, provided that they can discern and communicate their needs. 

Neighborhoods that have a shared vision for their future are better able to petition for their needs coherently.

Again, the actions of one individual can help spark better collaboration with the city.


For more information on neighboring, including details on how to enroll in the new “Becoming an Engaged Neighbor” online class or our free monthly "Neighboring 101" class, visit Learn more on your favorite social media platform with #engagedneighbor.

Community development specialists with MU Extension help people create communities of the future by tapping into local strengths and university resources. The Community Development Program works collaboratively with communities to foster economic development, leadership development, community decision making, community emergency preparedness and inclusive communities.

For more information, contact any of these MU Extension community development specialists working in southwest Missouri:  Pam Duitsman in Christian County, (417) 581-3558; David Burton in Greene County, (417) 881-8909 or Maria E. Rodriguez-Alcalá in Jasper County at (417) 358-2158