The environment in which we live, work, learn and play has an impact on our health. RIVMNational Institute for Public Health and the Environment shares knowledge and provides information on the healthy design of our environment, and on the influence of the physical and social environment on health. A healthy living environment is safe and attractive, invites everyone to engage with one another, promotes healthy behaviours, and is pleasant to live in.

Healthy and sustainable solutions for the living environment: green and blue spaces

Challenges such as climate change, ageing population, increase in sedentary lifestyles and obesity call for healthy and sustainable solutions at the international, national, regional and local level. RIVMNational Institute for Public Health and the Environment contributes to the development and evaluation of these solutions by integrating knowledge, research and health impact assessments.

We provide knowledge on the development of healthy spatial planning, for example, in the framework of the new Dutch Environment and Planning Act.  RIVM has expertise in healthy urban living and green and blue spaces in particular. We evaluate the positive and negative health impacts of potential solutions to improve the environment, such as the introduction of blue and green spaces in cities. Blue spaces such as water fountains, ponds, rivers and green spaces such as parks and public gardens have positive impacts on health and well-being by providing shade and opportunities for physical activity and relaxation.  They are also important in the light of climate adaptation (storage of excess water, a decrease of urban temperature).  It is essential to develop and maintain the green and blue spaces in such a way that health benefits are maximised and risks (e.g. allergens, infectious diseases) are minimised.

We have expertise on observational tools for evaluating and improving blue and green spaces, which were developed in FP7 project PHENOTYPE, H2020 project INHERIT, and in H2020 project BlueHealth. BlueHealth, in particular, focuses on understanding how water-based environments in towns and cities can affect health and wellbeing.

RIVM is also involved in the ‘Dutch City deal’ on the value of green and blue spaces in cities, in collaboration with municipalities, landscape architects, a gardening association and other advisors. The aim is to develop decision support tools and instruments that value the multiple benefits of nature-based solutions in urban areas, including health benefits. Use of these tools and instruments can help urban planners build the case to include green and blue spaces in the urban fabric, thus leading to a  ‘healthy, resilient and inclusive city of tomorrow’.  More on healthy cities.

Lifestyles and behaviour

RIVM is involved in international projects such as the Horizon2020 project INHERIT in which lifestyles and behaviours are explored to see how they can be changed in the areas of living (e.g. green spaces), moving and consuming in order to promote a triple win for health, environmental sustainability and equity.  We have expertise on Health Impact Assessment, including (societal and environmental cost-benefit analysis and cost-effectiveness. We use the Health in All Policies (HiAP) approach which involves multiple policy sectors collaborating for promoting and protecting the population’s health and addressing health inequalities. HiAP takes in to account not only the individual lifestyle but also wider health determinants including physical and social environment, prevention and care. HiAP encompasses interaction with different stakeholders (including citizens).  

RIVM also has knowledge about resident participation, an important prerequisite for a healthy local living environment. We have already established a track record in citizen science in sub-sectors such as air quality.  We share data and knowledge of community interventions in the field of the environment, lifestyles and health.

Another source of information is RIVM’s foresight studies, which provide insight into future developments in population health and its determinants. RIVM uses integrated environmental health indicators and conducts international monitoring and review activities, e.g. on environmental health inequalities for the World Health Organization, WHO  and towards achieving the UNUnited Nations  Sustainable Development Goals.

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