BlueHealth has increased understanding of how urban blue spaces can affect people’s wellbeing.
The majority of Europe’s population live in urban areas characterised by inland waterways and coastal margins.
The project’s interdisciplinary research has combined large-scale survey data with localised interventions to understand the effects these environments might have on health.
The team worked with communities, private sector organisations and policymakers to ensure our findings are focused and relevant.
Recommendations will help decision makers and communities promote health through access to good quality blue spaces, informing the development of towns and cities fit for the future.
This project started in January 2016 and finished in December 2020.
The project took an international, interdisciplinary and multi-sector approach to health promotion and disease prevention, investigating the relationships between ‘blue infrastructure’ and health and wellbeing.
‘Blue infrastructure’ refers to the network of natural and man-made aquatic environments that provide a range of services, such as transportation and fresh water provision.
To date, there has been no systematic attempt to detail the potential impacts of blue infrastructure on health promotion and disease prevention, nor to develop guidelines on how health should be considered when developing blue infrastructure interventions.
The research team assessed the effects of large scale projects such as dockland regeneration in Estonia and flood-proofing in the Netherlands, as well as smaller initiatives like canal cycle paths in Italy and coastal walking here in the UK.
The study also explored how virtual aquatic and coastal environments could be used in hospitals in Sweden and the UK to improve patients’ wellbeing.
Between 2016 and 2020 researchers conducted over 20 studies in more than 18 different countries across the world.
The team designed and implemented interventions at several sites in Spain, Italy, Estonia, Portugal, and the UK. They created a series of tools to assess these initiatives, and developed protocols for others to do the same.
Researchers have been at the forefront of new technologies, using virtual reality to bring blue space experiences to those who cannot access them. They have also conducted workshops in cities across Europe, and developed scenarios to plan for the future.
In the biggest study of its kind ever conducted, they surveyed over 18,000 people across Europe to uncover population-level relationships between blue spaces and health. We’ve also joined different databases to create new sources of information and analysis.