Reviewing the health impact and effectiveness of urban green space interventions

WHO

Leading up to the Sixth Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health to be held 13 to 15 June in Ostrava, Czech Republic, WHO has launched a new report aiming to fill the knowledge gap on the benefits of urban green spaces. The report provides the results of an evidence review and an assessment of local case studies on urban green space interventions.

A number of international agreements have committed to enhancing and supporting the establishment of green spaces in urban settings, as these are considered to provide a range of benefits to the urban population. Yet, little is known about the most effective ways to deliver urban interventions on green spaces and how to maximize the environmental, social and health benefits of such spaces.

The findings confirm that increasing or improving urban green space can deliver positive health, social and environmental outcomes for all population groups, particularly among lower socioeconomic status groups. But there is a need to more fully include health and equity outcomes in studies on green space interventions, along with improved monitoring of local green space management and related health and equity impacts.

Local experiences and urban practice suggest that multidisciplinary planning, cross-sectoral collaborations and community engagement in the planning process are essential to ensure that urban green space interventions deliver on multiple outcomes and provide a variety of functional opportunities that attract different population groups. Urban green space interventions seem to be most effective when a physical improvement to the green space is coupled with a social engagement/participation element that promotes the green spaces and reaches out to new target groups.

Political frameworks underscore importance of green space

Three political frameworks specifically address the link between urban green space and health:

  • The Parma Declaration commits by 2020 “to provide each child with access …to green spaces in which to play and undertake physical activity”.
  • The New Urban Agenda underlines the importance of public space. It calls for an increase in safe, inclusive, accessible, green and quality public spaces.
  • The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which pledges to “leave no one behind”, sets the target in Sustainable Development Goal 11 (target 11.7) to “provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces, in particular for women and children, older persons and persons with disabilities”.

The topic of urban green space is also embedded in the priority area “creating resilient communities and supportive environments” of the Health 2020 policy framework.

Upcoming Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health

Urban green space relates directly to the priority theme of the Sixth Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health – “Cities”. The Conference, to be held on 13–15 June 2017 in Ostrava, Czech Republic, will bring together health and environment ministers and high-level representatives of WHO European Region Member States, partner organizations, academia and civil society. Member States are expected to adopt a ministerial declaration, an implementation plan for their commitments and a reformed governance mechanism for the European Environment and Health Process.