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Characterisation of the natural environment: quantitative indicators across Europe

Smith, Graham, Cirach, Marta, Swart, Wim, Dėdelė, Audrius, Gidlow, Christopher, van Kempen, Elise, Kruize, Hanneke, Gražulevičienė, Regina and Nieuwenhuijsen, Mark J. (2017) Characterisation of the natural environment: quantitative indicators across Europe. International Journal of Health Geographics, 16:16. pp. 1-15. ISSN 1476-072X

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Abstract or description

Background: The World Health Organization recognises the importance of natural environments for human health. Evidence for natural environment-health associations comes largely from single countries or regions, with varied approaches to measuring natural environment exposure. We present a standardised approach to measuring neighbourhood natural environment exposure in cities in different regions of Europe.
Methods: The Positive health effects on the natural outdoor environment in typical populations of different regions in Europe (PHENOTYPE) study aimed to explore the mechanisms linking natural environment exposure and health in four European cities (Barcelona, Spain; Doetinchem, the Netherlands; Kaunas, Lithuania; and Stoke-on-Trent, UK). Common GIS protocols were used to develop a hierarchy of natural environment measures, from simple measures (e.g., NDVI, Urban Atlas) using Europe-wide data sources, to detailed measures derived from local data that were specific to mechanisms thought to underpin natural environment-health associations (physical activity, social interaction, stress reduction/restoration). Indicators were created around residential addresses for a range of straight line and network buffers (100m to 1km).
Results: For simple indicators derived from Europe-wide data, we observed differences between cities, which varied with different indicators (e.g., Kaunas and Doetinchem had equal highest mean NDVI within 100m buffer, but mean distance to nearest natural environment in Kaunas was more twice that in Doetinchem). Mean distance to nearest natural environment for all cities suggested that most participants lived close to some kind of natural environments (64±58 to 363±281m; mean 180±204m). The detailed classification highlighted marked between-city differences in terms of prominent types of natural environment. Indicators specific to mechanisms derived from this classification also captured more variation than the simple indicators. Distance to nearest and count indicators showed clear differences between cities, and the those specific to the mechanisms showed within-city differences for Barcelona and Doetinchem.
Conclusions: This paper demonstrates the feasibility and challenges of creating comparable GIS-derived natural environment exposure indicators across diverse European cities. Mechanism-specific indicators showed within- and between-city variability that suggests their utility for ecological studies, which could inform more specific policy recommendations than the traditional proxies for natural environment access.

Item Type: Article
Faculty: School of Life Sciences and Education > Sport and Exercise
Depositing User: Christopher GIDLOW
Date Deposited: 31 May 2017 10:35
Last Modified: 16 Mar 2018 15:45

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