Research at the European Centre for Environment and Human Health has focused on the inextricably interconnected and complex relationship between oceans and humans from its very beginnings. The centre’s research spans the invaluable ecosystem services provided by the ocean, through to ecotoxicological risks, the impacts on this relationship considering environmental change, and even ocean stewardship.
Setting the agenda
The centre led a landmark Horizon 2020 project – SOPHIE – whose main aim was to deliver a strategic research agenda on ocean and human health for Europe. As part of this the centre mapped all the research conducted on this wide-ranging topic, highlighted cross-national public concern about plastic pollution and marine biodiversity loss, and examined public preferences for policy interventions to protect human health from maritime activities. The final strategic research agenda contained three main foci: sustainable seafood, fisheries, and aquaculture, tourism and well-being from oceans, and marine biodiversity, medicine, and biotechnology.
Alongside these foci, the strategic research agenda set measurable impact targets for ensuring attainment of oceans and human health research capacity in Europe.
The ECEHH has been an international leader in Oceans and Human Health even before participation in the European Marine Board White Paper and the hosting of the international Bedruthran Steps Oceans and Health Workshop in 2013; these efforts directly led to the inclusion of Oceans and Human Health as a focus area for the 2014 EurOcean Declaration.
This was followed by a series of landmark commentaries calling on particularly the public health and medical communities to address the importance of a healthy Ocean for human health and wellbeing. This led to a UN Oceans and Human Health SDG 14 Policy Brief and the IOC Oceans and Human Health Webinar.
More recently, the ECEHH has collaborated with UK NHS active clinicians, Dr Richard Hixson (anaesthesiologist) and Dr Georgina Sowman (GP), in their establishment of Healthcare Ocean (formerly, NHS Ocean) to bring attention to the important impact of the national and international Healthcare and related Sectors on the health of the Ocean, and thus human health and well-being. This includes collaborations with the Pharmaceutical Pollution Hub led by Dr Kelly Thornber.
The ECEHH successfully led international interdisciplinary collaborators (involving 9 Editors and more than 200 co authors) to create the second edition of Oceans and Human Health: Opportunities and Impacts (Elsevier 2023), a textbook aimed at environmental and public health/medical students, policy makers and coastal communities.
The ECEHH is leading a Blue Paper Report focused on Opportunities and Actions for Oceans and Human Health for the Ocean Panel and the ECEHH is leading the Oceans and Human Health section of the WMO WHO Collaboration ClimaHealth.