Urbanisation is one of the global trends of the 21st century that has a significant impact on health, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has stated. High levels of air pollution and poor housing and transport conditions are some of the factors that affect the health of those living in cities, which is more than half of the world’s population.
There is a lot of evidence that living close to green spaces is of great importance for health, and this is also the focus of the researchers in the NordForsk-funded project “Smart Planning for Healthy and Green Nordic Cities (NORDGREEN)”. They’re studying the impact that having access to green spaces has on health, social inclusion and quality of life in six Nordic cities: Espoo and Ii in Finland, Vilhelmina and Täby in Sweden, Stavanger in Norway, and Aarhus in Denmark.
– Green public spaces such as parks, cemeteries and forests are important resources for improving physical health and well-being, and preventing disease. Some of our preliminary results show that residents of Stavanger who live in green neighbourhoods are more physically active compared to residents who live in less green areas, says senior researcher Luciane Aguiar Borges, leader of the NORDGREEN project.
Why have you chosen the cities of Aarhus, Espoo, Ii, Stavanger, Täby and Vilhelmina?
– We’ve chosen these six cities because our aim is to provide tools and guidelines applicable to Nordic cities and municipalities of all sizes, from metropolises to peripheral cities, and six municipalities which represent different types of cities. Aarhus and Stavanger are larger cities, Espoo and Täby belong to metropolitan areas, while Ii and Vilhelmina are towns in rural districts.
Which of those cities has the most green areas?
– Among the cities that are part of the NORDGREEN project, Espoo is the greenest. As much as 43.5 percent of the city is covered by green areas such as parks, cemeteries and forests. Based on municipal data, we can see that residents in Espoo are more satisfied with their neighbourhood and feel safer in the area compared to the residents of Stavanger, Täby and Aarhus, she explains and continues:
– The proportion of respondents who report satisfaction with their neighbourhood is as follows: Espoo 84.4 percent, Aarhus 79 percent, Stavanger 78 percent, and Täby 71 percent. The proportion of respondents who state that they feel safe is: Espoo 93 percent, Aarhus 87 percent, Stavanger 84 percent, and Täby 81 percent. Our results also show that more than 90 percent of all homes in our case cities have access to green areas within 300 metres. Of the case cities we picked, the homes are closest to green areas in Täby.
What will be the outcome of your research results?
– In the course of this year we’ll launch NORDGREEN City Talks, a webinar series that will bring NORDGREEN researchers and city partners together to discuss the benefits and requirements of implementing the tools we use in our research. We’re inviting all stakeholders (planners, policy makers, researchers, and more) to collaborate with us by registering for NORDGREEN City Talks. In November 2023, we’ll also launch the NORDGREEN handbook, which will summarise the most important tools and approaches that we’ve used in the research project.
Did you know that NordForsk is funding a total of four Nordic projects with an emphasis on sustainable urban development? All the projects support UN sustainable development goal 11, which is about making cities and local communities inclusive, safe, robust, and sustainable.