Agenda
14/10/2015 - 12:00 - Auditori PRBB

Fifty shades of green: Pathway to a healthy urban living


Scientific sessions, CRG Group Leader Seminars

Mark Nieuwenhuijsen

Air Pollution Reseach Programme, CREAL



Mark J Nieuwenhuijsen PhD is an expert in environmental exposure assessment, epidemiology, and health risk/impact assessment. He has experience and expertise in areas of respiratory and cardiovascular disease, mental health and cognitive function, cancer and reproductive health, and exposure measurement and modelling of indoor and outdoor air pollution, pesticides, green space, UV exposure, occupational allergens, chlorination by-products in drinking water and heavy metals, using new technology such as GIS, smartphones, personal sensors and remote sensing. He leads the international TAPAS study (http://www.tapas-program.org/), examining the health impacts of active transport in six European cities and the EC funded PHENOTYPE (www.phenotype.eu) study, examining the relations between green space and health. He is a co-investigator in ICEPURE (www.icepure.eu), that examines exposure to and health effects of solar UV exposure, ESCAPE (www.escapeproject.eu) (and related (VE3SPA), that examines the long term health effects of air pollution, NIH funded CAVA which aims to validate smartphone based data collection methods, EC funded CITISENSE (http://citi-sense.eu/) that aims to empower citizens using smartphone technology, EC funded HELIX (http://www.projecthelix.eu/), that examines the early life exposome and childhood diseases, EC funded EXPOsOMICs (http://www.exposomicsproject.eu/) that examines the air pollution and water exposome and health and EC funded PASTA study (http://www.pastaproject.eu), which promotes active transportation through sustainable transport.

For nearly 100000 years humans have lived in closed contact with nature. For the last few thousand years there has been a movement towards urbanization, and particularly in the last few decades we have seen a rapidly increase in urbanization, which is likely to continue in the years to come. The great majority of people will live in urbanized areas. In these areas the competition for space is often tremendous and can be chaotic without sufficient urban planning. In particular the amount of space available for green space may be reduced and thereby also the contact with nature that people may have.

Growing evidence suggests that close contact with nature brings benefits to human health and well-being. Various studies show beneficial effects of green space on mortality, including all cause and cardiovascular mortality and morbidity including e.g. mental health , obesity, allergies and asthma, cognitive function and behavior in children and birth weight, but the proposed mechanisms (stress reduction/restorative function, physical activity, social interaction, exposure to environmental hazards, altered immune response) are still not well understood. Furthermore it has been suggested that green space can reduce health inequalities. We need to understand better e.g. what the underlying mechanism are and what type, amount and quality of green space is required to make changes to urban environments and policies to improve public health. We need collaboration between urban planners, landscape architects, public health practitioners and citizens groups to make the required changes in cities. Can we plan new cities with sufficient green space, or refit existing cities? Can urban gardens contribute?

The talk will provide an overview of the current state of knowledge and makes recommendations for further work.