What is the impact of coasts and rivers on our health? How can we place health at the centre of the agenda when promoting the collaboration between research and urban planning? This is the starting point for the European Project BlueHealth that started in 2016 with ISGlobal’s participation and that on February 9 celebrated its first annual stakeholder meeting.
More than 40 participants discussed the challenges and opportunities that blue spaces –rivers, lakes, seas, fountains, etc.– may represent for the health and wellbeing of citizens, particularly in Barcelona and surrounding areas, and how to integrate health criteria in urban planning decisions.
The meeting opened with a lecture by the project’s leader Mark Nieuwenhuijsen, director of the Urban Planning, Environment and Health Initiative at ISGlobal, who introduced the project and its objectives. Postdoctoral researcher Mireia Gascon presented the available scientific evidence on the relationship between blue spaces and health. According to a study soon to be published, “a greater exposure to blue spaces correlates with improved mental health, wellbeing and more physical activity”. Due to the lack of studies, “there is yet little evidence on how blue spaces impact general health, obesity, cardiovascular indicators and longevity” explains Gascon. Researchers then presented the different projects that ISGlobal will lead within BlueHealth in order to study the relationship between blue spaces and health:
- Assessment of physical activity levels before and after improvements in access to the Besós River (Montcada and Reixac)
- A study with office workers in Barcelona
- Restoration of the Can Moritz fountain in Rubí, in collaboration with the Master in Landscape and Heritage Management by the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB)
Thanks to the participation of professionals with different backgrounds – architects, archaeologists, biologists, urban planners, public administration representatives and private sector- the event provided the opportunity to share good practices and experiences in the Barcelona area, such as the recuperation and revitalization of the Besòs river, the recuperation of the Collserola fountains or the Blue Paths project 2016-2020 developed by the Province of Barcelona.