Linking Up Environment, Health and Climate for Inter-sector Health Promotion and Disease Prevention in a Rapidly Changing Environment.

BlueHealth is a pan-European research initiative investigating the links between environment, climate and health.

The majority of Europe’s population lives in urban areas characterised by inland waterways and coastal margins. Horizon2020 project ‘BlueHealth’ is researching how these environments can affect health promotion and disease control and is working with communities, private sector organisations and policymakers to ensure its findings are focused and relevant.  In this project, RIVMNational Institute for Public Health and the Environment works jointly with partners from the United Kingdom, Estonia, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Greece and the World Health Organization.  BlueHealth runs from 2016 to 2020. 

Project aims

Many of the urban blue infrastructures were originally designed for other policy goals (e.g. transport, flood prevention). However, innovative design and planning can promote health by ensuring that the co-benefits are captured. BlueHealth aims to quantify the impacts on health and wellbeing of existing and novel interventions connected to urban blue infrastructure and to identify opportunities and obstacles for cross-sectoral collaboration in this area.

Project structure and funding

The BlueHealth project will last 54 months and is divided into eight interrelated work packages (WPs). Overall project management is with the University of Exeter (link). The BlueHealth project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 666773.

RIVM’s contribution

RIVM coordinates the work package on BlueHealth scenarios and carries out a case study on the health effects of urban swimming waters. In this work package, RIVM works with the Fundació Centre de Recerca en Epidemiologia Ambiental (CREAL) (Spain), the Centro Euro-Mediterraneo sui Cambiamenti Climatici (CMCC) (Italy) and the Estonian University of Life Sciences (EMU) (Estonia).

Susanne Wuijts, senior researcher and policy advisor at RIVM, is the coordinator of the BlueHealth work on developing scenarios. Other RIVM colleagues involved are Henk Hilderink, Dieneke Schram, Brigit Staatsen, Lieke Friederichs, Hanneke Kruize, Liesbet Dirven, Jeroen van Leuken and Ana Maria de Roda Husman.

Developing BlueHealth scenarios

Due to processes such as climate change and urbanisation, the availability of sufficient good quality water during droughts and floods becomes more challenging.  Both these aspects of water management are of influence on public health. Other factors that influence water and our health are developments in the field of demography, economy, policy, social-cultural and technology. 

The BlueHealth project will develop scenarios to identify these drivers, their interaction and contribution to water and health. The scenarios offer policymakers and stakeholders a platform for discussion on the health benefits of water spaces that are to be strived for and what risks need to be remediated. These scenarios will be defined in cooperation with inter-sector stakeholders from government, business (including tourism, insurance and building developers), academia, and citizens’ organisations and will focus on a number of European cities. All parts of the scenario development process will be validated with key stakeholders and experts. One of the expected results will be a visualised narrative of the different scenarios. 

In this blog 'Designing for the future' Susanne explains how BlueHealth is using scenario planning to ensure BlueHealth research is relevant, both now and in the future.