BiB Programme Director (and green space enthusiast)
June the 5th 2018 is World Environment Day. World Environment Day is the UN’s most important day for encouraging worldwide awareness and action for the protection of our environment. Taking care of our environment is not only important for preserving our world for future generations, but it is also vital for maintaining our health and wellbeing.
Our research within Born in Bradford has shed light on the very real impacts our local environment can have on our health, both in childhood and later in life. For example, we have shown that poor air quality can increase the risk of a baby being born with a low birthweight. Linked work by our colleagues has shown that within Bradford air pollution may be responsible for nearly 40% of cases of childhood asthma within the city, 18% of these are due to entirely preventable emissions from polluting cars and vehicles. On the other hand we know that green spaces such as urban parks, playgrounds and woodland have a protective effect on our health. We have found green spaces to be associated with reduced reporting of depression during pregnancy, higher birth weight amongst babies and children’s mental health.
Despite what we know about environmental factors which influence health, exposure to these harmful or protective factors is not equitable. Families living in more deprived areas, both within Bradford and further afield are routinely exposed to high levels of pollution, and have less access to high quality, safe and accessible green spaces. This is unacceptable and concerted multi-sector efforts combing insights from urban planners, public health professionals, transport planners and communities are need to make changes which can improve environments for all of our families, not just the most affluent. With over 73% of Europe’s population living in urban areas, a figure set to rise over the next decade, now is the time to think about how we can improve the life of our city dwellers.
Our work in partnership with the Better Start Bradford programme (www.betterstartbradford.org.uk) aims to do just that. As part of its Better Place workstream, Better Start Bradford aims to harness the power of local communities to co-design changes to their local neighbourhoods. The aim is to develop safer and healthier places to walk and play for families with young children, and will work to improve access to high quality green spaces for communities living in deprived areas. Better Start Bradford highlights how research demonstrating the impact of environmental factors on health can be transformed into action and real change for our local communities.
So, on World Environment Day please remember the importance of our green natural environment for health and wellbeing. Ditch the car and take a walk in your local park. By helping to protect our local environments you are investing not only in your health, but those of future generations.