Author: Matilda van den Bosch
Published in: Environment International (Nov 25, 2016)
No time to lose – Green the cities now
In this paper we review and evaluate existing knowledge on human health impacts of urban natural spaces, such as parks and open water elements, and make a case for increased investments in such. We conclude that there is a high probability for benefits outweighing any potentially harmful consequences. We also discuss potential explanations for poor transfer of science to policy and practice, including cognitive bias, incommensurability between disciplines and sectors, vested interests and economic constraints.
Based on the existing literature, we suggest that the escalating urbanization, especially in low- and middle income countries, and the epidemic of chronic diseases together with contemporary environmental threats, justify urgent inclusion of natural space investments in public health policies and actions. This should be considered also in the absence of gold standard evidence, as long as the risk for harmful effects is evaluated as low and the cost-efficiency is likely to be high. Moving away from an anthropocentric worldview, co-benefits to the environment are important to take into account when planning for healthy cities.
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