Espacios azules: ¿qué efectos producen las costas y los ríos en nuestra salud?

Blue Spaces: What Impact do Coasts and Rivers on Our Health?

30.8.2016

Europe has 91,000 km of coastline and more than half of its population lives within 50 km of the sea. Yet, whilst the average city-dweller resides just 2.5 km from a freshwater source such as a river, lake or canal, there has been little research into the health impacts of these ‘blue’ environments.

We aim to shed light on how coasts and rivers affect the health of populations across Europe

In this sense, with the BlueHealth project, funded with €6 million by the European Union, we aim to shed light on how coasts and rivers affect the health of populations across Europe.

Moreover, we aim to analyse how improved access to these spaces can maximise wellbeing benefits of these spaces, while also investigating their potential risks in human beings.

 

The programme is being led by researchers at the University of Exeter Medical School’s Truro campus in Cornwall (United Kingdom), with the participation of ISGlobal in Barcelona (Spain), and others partners of leading institutions from Sweden, Estonia, the Netherlands, Germany, Greece and Italy.

In Barcelona we will encourage beach walking among office workers

In ISGlobal we are in charge of coordinating and developing the part of the project focused on Community-level Interventions; through interventions in the landscape involving blue spaces or by promoting changes in the behavior of citizens in terms of their relationship with these blue spaces, we will evaluate the impact of such interventions around the benefits and risks of transport and environmental blue stressors, physical activity, and recreational use of blue infrastructure.

Case-studies include: adding features that improve information/knowledge about access to and use of the Appia Atica park in Rome (Italy), the opening of a new stretch of coastal path in the UK, improvement of access to the Besòs and Ripoll rivers, particularly to the riverbanks, near the city of Barcelona (Spain) and the introduction of temporary elements that add aesthetic value to an area that is used for recreation by local residents and people from further afield in the cities of Tartu and Tallin (Estonia), Ourém (Portugal) and Kristianstad (Sweden). 

Our final aim with the BlueHealth project is to use our findings to develop guidelines on how health should be considered when creating and improving access to aquatic environments

Interventions changing people’s behavior will be conducted in Thessaloniki (Greece) – we will entail people spending time at the waterfront during work breaks and during weekends -, in Barcelona (Spain) – we will encourage beach walking among office workers -, and in Sweden - swimming lessons will be provided to children, particularly in areas with a high percentage of ethnic minority children.

Overall, our final aim with the BlueHealth project is to use our findings to develop guidelines on how health should be considered when creating and improving access to aquatic environments, ultimately informing decision makers in healthcare, public health and town planning.

More information

The Blue Health project