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Using Green & Blue spaces Benefit Physical & Mental Health

Green and blue spaces should be protected, maintained and integrated in health, planning and other social and economic development policy.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Health Service Executive (HSE) will launch the key findings from jointly-funded research projects on the benefits of green and blue spaces to health and wellbeing in a joint Webinar today.

View of part of ‘The Galtees’ mountain range, Co. Tipperary

Ireland’s green and blue spaces are essential components of Ireland’s health infrastructure and include urban parks, coasts, lakes and rivers, forests and bogs. The research launched today has found that using green and blue spaces benefits people’s physical and mental health. Such benefits include increasing physical activity, enhancing mental wellbeing and providing spaces for social interaction.

Findings highlight that green and blue spaces should be protected, maintained and integrated in health, planning and other social and economic development policy.

Laura Burke (Director-General, Environmental Protection Agency) stated,
“Research has an important role to play in establishing how human health can be enhanced by a healthy environment. The research launched today is particularly relevant and timely during the on-going Covid-19 crisis as people focus on making the most of the natural environment in their local areas. It shows that access to green and blue spaces benefit people’s health and wellbeing. Establishing a knowledge base on the link between our health and our environment, can support the development of policies to protect our essential blue and green spaces.”

Dr. Stephanie O’Keefe (Health Service Executive) stated:
“Our health and our environment are hugely interconnected. COVID-19 has brought this reality into stark relief. These excellent research projects increase our understanding of the importance of green and blue space for our health and wellbeing. The research also highlights that access to good quality green and blue space is not equal for all. The HSE’s ongoing collaboration with the EPA is important as we strive to protect and improve human health and wellbeing, and therefore the spaces and places in which we live. Developing a strong evidence base to target improvements is part of this.”

Joint funding to a value of around €0.6 million was awarded to three research studies in 2016 to support the implementation of Healthy Ireland, the national framework for action to improve the health and wellbeing of the people of Ireland.

The following research reports were launched today:

  • GBI-Health: Green and Blue Spaces and Health: A Health-led Approach – Led by Dr Ronan Foley in Maynooth University – focusing on health-date aspects.
  • Eco-Health: Ecosystem Benefits of Greenspace for Health – Led by Professor Mark Foley in University College Dublin – focusing on Design/Planning aspects.
  • NEAR-Health: Nature and Environment to Attain and Restore Health – Led by Dr Caitriona Carlin in National University of Ireland, Galway – focusing on the relations between green & blue spaces, nature and communities

An additional project, also co-funded by the EPA and HSE, looking at evaluating health benefits derived from green and blue spaces, was carried out by the ESRI and its findings will be presented by Dr Gianluca Grilli during the Webinar.

Speaking at the Webinar today Dr Jonathan Derham, Environmental Protection Agency stated:
“Research is needed at a national and local level to provide evidence for decisions and investment by government and others to protect and develop green and blues spaces, so they can deliver for the health and wellbeing of the population. There is a high value in ongoing research and in providing insights and information that can better inform policy and planning. We need to monitor usage to improve data and understanding of the contribution to health and wellbeing. A well-managed network of green and blue spaces contributes to our quality of life and health, but also helps Ireland meet its European and international obligations and future-proof the country.”

Further EPA-HSE co-funded research (to a value of around €1.2 million) is currently on-going on the topics of linkages between Health and Air Quality and Noise, as well as on Antimicrobial Resistance. These projects are due for completion in 2021-2022.

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