22 March UNUnited Nations  World Water Day is all about attention on the importance of water. This years’ theme ‘Leaving no one behind’ adapts the central promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: everyone must benefit from sustainable development progress. Sustainable Development Goal 6 clearly states "water for all". On World Water Day 2019 RIVMNational Institute for Public Health and the Environment is hosting an international workshop to achieve healthy blue spaces for all. 

What are blue spaces?

A blue space is an urban design term for visible water. Rivers, ponds, lakes, ports, canals, fountains, etc., all count as blue spaces. It is known that spending time close to blue spaces has a positive impact on mental health and promotes physical activity. 

Implementation in the urban environment

Researchers see blue spaces having a similar function as green spaces, such as parks or undeveloped landscape. In the Netherlands, there are several new opportunities to include green and blue spaces in spatial plans, such as the new Dutch Environment and Planning Act. However, it remains a challenge how to implement these spaces in an urban environment with multiple interests at stake. In addition, only a few of the interventions or practices implementing green and blue spaces have been evaluated, limiting our insights on what works and what the impacts of these interventions on health and wellbeing are. Furthermore, the limited studies on the effects of environmental interventions on health often focused on ‘green’-interventions and little on ‘blue’-interventions. 

Today's Workshop

RIVM is involved in the Horizon2020 project ‘BlueHealth’ which aims to overcome this knowledge gap. It is investigating how these environments can affect health promotion and disease control. In the workshop titled ‘Health ambitions in the Environment and Planning Act: how can BlueHealth support these?’ the BlueHealth results until now are presented. Participants are invited to try out the BlueHealth tools and to discuss how BlueHealth research and tools can be applied to put ‘blue health’ and blue spaces on the agenda and implemented in spatial planning. Participants are local authorities, public health agencies, knowledge institutes and national authorities. 

About BlueHealth

In BlueHealth, partners from the United Kingdom, Estonia, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Greece, the Netherlands and the World Health Organization work together with communities, private sector organisations and policymakers to ensure BlueHealth findings’ are focused and relevant.  See BlueHealth project website