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ECOHEALTH

Analysing cobenefits among ECOsystems and HEALTH to cope with climate change risks

In the setting of the 2nd PNACC workprogramme, ECOHEALTH addresses the need to identify measures which could bring multiple co- benefits in health and ecosystems protection, in a context of adaptation to climate change, while mobilizing key stakeholders. The project relates to and expand some of the objectives stated in the Cost Action TObeWELL (Tourism, Wellbeing and Ecosystem Services, 2012-2016, Cost Action IS1204), which aims at bringing together principles of ecosystem services (ES), focusing on life support systems, with more non-material services such as culture, health and wellbeing. The project is also linked with the EU Project BASE (Bottom-up Climate Adaptation Strategies towards a Sustainable Europe, 2012-2016, FP7 ENV.2012.6.1-3), and specifically to the case study where BC3 and UPM are involved to assess co- benefits of adaptation measures in water and health to face droughts and heat waves in the area of Madrid.

Within this context, we aim to link research on wellbeing provided by ecosystems and the implications on human health. The idea is to explore how and in what way it is possible to improve human health and wellbeing, by using in a sustainable way natural resources and ecosystem services, while addressing adaptation to climate change. For example, in urban contexts, green spaces can be good adaptation options as they can provide a localized cooling effect (of 1°C - 2°C), while decreasing the risk of flooding. At the same time, they provide other co-benefits, such as improving air quality, cutting particulate pollution, reducing traffic noise, improving human health (both physical and psychological).

Biodiversity is a foundation of human health, as clean water and air, healthy environment, healthy management of livestock are all crucial for public health. Moreover, direct contact with nature contributes to improve immune function, mood and concentration, while reducing stress and increasing the benefits of physical exercise. Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and chronic respiratory illnesses, are now a global health epidemic. More than 36 million people die every year from NCDs, and the impact is projected to increase to 44 million by 2020, with higher vulnerability in urban areas and among economically disadvantaged groups. NCDs can be largely prevented by lifestyle decisions, some of which can also benefit urban biodiversity and a better adaptation to climate change.

The relations between human health and environment extend beyond the mere absence of illness; rather, they involve a holistic approach of health, defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being.” Against this background, a further objective of this proposal is to identify and evaluate, with both quantitative and qualitative indicators, the health benefits related to an exposure to healthy environment and green areas, to gather data and information from case studies carried out in Europe and outside Europe and analyze their applicability to the Spanish setting. The quantification of these benefits is a necessary research step towards the application of cost-benefit analysis in the context of adaptation in health for Spain

Start date: April 2014

End date: March 2015

Call: Convocatoria de Ayudas de la Fundación Biodiversidad, en Régimen de Concurrencia Competitiva, para la Realización de Actividades en el Ámbito de la biodiversidad Terrestre, Biodiversidad Marina y Litoral, el Cambio Climático y la Calidad Ambiental 2013 (Fundación Biodiversidad )

Partners in ECOHEALTH:

BC3 Basque Centre for Climate Change - Coordinator
Universidad de Alcalá

Key people involved in BC3:

Prof. Anil Markandya 
Dr. Aline Chiabai 
Dr. Ibon Galarraga 

Results: The objective is to contribute to the PNACC through the identification and evaluation of measures which can bring multiple co-benefits in health and ecosystem protection, in a context of changing climate. Specific attention will be given to best practices and interventions which can improve human health and wellbeing through the link with a sustainable use of ecosystems and natural resources.

A set of beneficial health effects related to access to green areas will be explored and analyzed through the literature, such as the reduction of health inequalities (access to green areas promoting good health contributes to the reduction of socio-economic health inequalities), the promotion of active lifestyle (contributing to decrease obesity and survival of senior citizens), promotion of better community cohesion, improvement of mental health (calming and restorative effects), as well as the cost-effectiveness of programs. Quantitative indicators on the health impacts will be gathered in a database, and when possible, physical impacts will be translated in monetary terms.

Lastly, participatory processes will be used to involve the main stakeholders in the identification and economic valuation of win-win strategies in selected case study areas (jointly defined with the Climate Change Office), to build synergies among different sectors and identify main barriers to implementation. Costs and benefits of selected adaptation measures will be assessed with the help of stakeholders and the Climate Change Office.

The value added of this proposal is related to the possibility of evaluating co-benefits and synergies among sectors, which become crucial in a contest of limited resources and economic crisis. The results will help decision makers in planning the adaptation strategy for Spain.

Specific objectives:

  • To identify and evaluate the benefits on health associated with the exposure to healthy environments and green areas.
  • To identify and evaluate adaptation measures and good practices, applicable to the Spanish context, which can provide co-benefits in health and protection of the ecosystem services, as identified in the previous objective
  • Analyse the impacts of climate induced crop productivity changes on the income distribution and the influence of the potential impacts on health through changes in the food habits.
  • To study the implications for decision making on adaptation.
Logo Fundacion Biodiversidad

This project is co-funded by Fundación Biodiversidad, Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment

 



 
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