Living near water and access to water or so-called blue spaces is beneficial for people’s health and well-being. The benefits of blue spaces are not used to their full potential due to a lack of scientific knowledge and practical understanding. In addition, the implementation of blue infrastructure remains a challenge because multiple interests are at stake. Experts from the Horizon2020 project BlueHealth introduced Dutch experts and stakeholders to European case studies and interventions and new tools for spatial planning.

On World Water Day, March 22nd, 2019 RIVMNational Institute for Public Health and the Environment and its BlueHealth partners organised an international workshop attended by representatives from local, regional and national authorities on water, health and spatial planning. Together they explored how blue spaces can be incorporated in the new Dutch Environment and Planning Act. 

Case studies

Mireia Gascon (Instituto de Salud Global) presented a selection of the BlueHealth case studies that take place in Malmö, Plymouth, Barcelona, Tallinn, Thessaloniki, Rome and Amsterdam and the first results of the Barcelona case studies along the Besos River. The results add to the knowledge base on how spatial interventions may lead to healthier behaviour. 

Survey among European citizens

The first results of the BlueHealth survey were explained by Lewis Elliott (University of Exeter). This survey has been carried out in 14 EU Member States and four non-European countries, with 1,000 respondents per country. Residence, prior activity, visits, health, demographics, education as well as appraisal of green, coastal/inland blue spaces were among the questions.  The results will give insights into people’s perceptions of blue spaces and possible health contributions. An interactive map showed the most recent experiences of the interviewees with blue spaces

BlueHealth and the Environment and Planning Act

The participants also discussed the results in relation to the Environment and Planning Act focusing on equity/diversity and healthy urban swimming. Central questions for discussion were: What are the ambitions, What are the challenges, What are knowledge gaps, How could BlueHealth results help to achieve these ambitions? 

Spatial planning tools

BlueHealth has developed various tools for spatial planning.  These are the evaluation tools in spatial planning BlueHealth Environmental Assessment Tool (BEAT), BlueHealth Behavioural Assessment Tool (BBAT)) and the Decision Support Tool (DST) for the development and evaluation of local blue space interventions. The participants were able to test the tools in an interactive session. 

About BlueHealth

The Horizon2020 project ‘BlueHealth’ aims to understand the relationships between exposure to blue space and well-being. It studies the public health impacts of changes to both natural blue spaces and associated urban infrastructure in Europe. In this project, partners from the United Kingdom, Estonia, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Greece, the Netherlands, and the World Health Organization (WHO) work together. RIVM coordinates the work package on BlueHealth scenarios and carries out a case study on the health effects of urban swimming waters.