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      Urban and Transport Planning Related Exposures and Mortality: A Health Impact Assessment for Cities


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          By 2050, nearly 70% of the global population is projected to live in urban areas. Because the environments we inhabit affect our health, urban and transport designs that promote healthy living are needed.


          We estimated the number of premature deaths preventable under compliance with international exposure recommendations for physical activity (PA), air pollution, noise, heat, and access to green spaces.


          We developed and applied the Urban and TranspOrt Planning Health Impact Assessment (UTOPHIA) tool to Barcelona, Spain. Exposure estimates and mortality data were available for 1,357,361 residents. We compared recommended with current exposure levels. We quantified the associations between exposures and mortality and calculated population attributable fractions to estimate the number of premature deaths preventable. We also modeled life-expectancy and economic impacts.


          We estimated that annually, nearly 20% of mortality could be prevented if international recommendations for performance of PA; exposure to air pollution, noise, and heat; and access to green space were followed. Estimations showed that the greatest portion of preventable deaths was attributable to increases in PA, followed by reductions of exposure to air pollution, traffic noise, and heat. Access to green spaces had smaller effects on mortality. Compliance was estimated to increase the average life expectancy by 360 (95% CI: 219, 493) days and result in economic savings of 9.3 (95% CI: 4.9, 13.2) billion EUR/year.


          PA factors and environmental exposures can be modified by changes in urban and transport planning. We emphasize the need for a) the reduction of motorized traffic through the promotion of active and public transport and b) the provision of green infrastructure, both of which are suggested to provide opportunities for PA and for mitigation of air pollution, noise, and heat.


          Mueller N, Rojas-Rueda D, Basagaña X, Cirach M, Cole-Hunter T, Dadvand P, Donaire-Gonzalez D, Foraster M, Gascon M, Martinez D, Tonne C, Triguero-Mas M, Valentín A, Nieuwenhuijsen M. 2017. Urban and transport planning related exposures and mortality: a health impact assessment for cities. Environ Health Perspect 125:89–96; http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/EHP220

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          Most cited references51

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          Development of Land Use Regression models for PM(2.5), PM(2.5) absorbance, PM(10) and PM(coarse) in 20 European study areas; results of the ESCAPE project.

          Land Use Regression (LUR) models have been used increasingly for modeling small-scale spatial variation in air pollution concentrations and estimating individual exposure for participants of cohort studies. Within the ESCAPE project, concentrations of PM(2.5), PM(2.5) absorbance, PM(10), and PM(coarse) were measured in 20 European study areas at 20 sites per area. GIS-derived predictor variables (e.g., traffic intensity, population, and land-use) were evaluated to model spatial variation of annual average concentrations for each study area. The median model explained variance (R(2)) was 71% for PM(2.5) (range across study areas 35-94%). Model R(2) was higher for PM(2.5) absorbance (median 89%, range 56-97%) and lower for PM(coarse) (median 68%, range 32- 81%). Models included between two and five predictor variables, with various traffic indicators as the most common predictors. Lower R(2) was related to small concentration variability or limited availability of predictor variables, especially traffic intensity. Cross validation R(2) results were on average 8-11% lower than model R(2). Careful selection of monitoring sites, examination of influential observations and skewed variable distributions were essential for developing stable LUR models. The final LUR models are used to estimate air pollution concentrations at the home addresses of participants in the health studies involved in ESCAPE.
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            Regulation of the immune system by biodiversity from the natural environment: An ecosystem service essential to health

            Epidemiological studies suggest that living close to the natural environment is associated with long-term health benefits including reduced death rates, reduced cardiovascular disease, and reduced psychiatric problems. This is often attributed to psychological mechanisms, boosted by exercise, social interactions, and sunlight. Compared with urban environments, exposure to green spaces does indeed trigger rapid psychological, physiological, and endocrinological effects. However, there is little evidence that these rapid transient effects cause long-term health benefits or even that they are a specific property of natural environments. Meanwhile, the illnesses that are increasing in high-income countries are associated with failing immunoregulation and poorly regulated inflammatory responses, manifested as chronically raised C-reactive protein and proinflammatory cytokines. This failure of immunoregulation is partly attributable to a lack of exposure to organisms ("Old Friends") from mankind's evolutionary past that needed to be tolerated and therefore evolved roles in driving immunoregulatory mechanisms. Some Old Friends (such as helminths and infections picked up at birth that established carrier states) are almost eliminated from the urban environment. This increases our dependence on Old Friends derived from our mothers, other people, animals, and the environment. It is suggested that the requirement for microbial input from the environment to drive immunoregulation is a major component of the beneficial effect of green space, and a neglected ecosystem service that is essential for our well-being. This insight will allow green spaces to be designed to optimize health benefits and will provide impetus from health systems for the preservation of ecosystem biodiversity.
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              Non-vigorous physical activity and all-cause mortality: systematic review and meta-analysis of cohort studies.

              Although previous studies have found physical activity to be associated with lower mortality, the dose-response relationship remains unclear. In this systematic review and meta-analysis we quantify the dose-response relationship of non-vigorous physical activity and all-cause mortality. We aimed to include all cohort studies in adult populations with a sample size of more than 10 000 participants that estimated the effect of different levels of light or moderate physical activity on all-cause mortality. We searched Medline, Embase, Cochrane (DARE), Web of Science and Global Health (June 2009). We used dose-response meta-regression models to estimate the relation between non-vigorous physical activity and mortality. We identified 22 studies that met our inclusion criteria, containing 977 925 (334 738 men and 643 187 women) people. There was considerable variation between the studies in their categorization of physical activity and adjustment for potential confounders. We found that 2.5 h/week (equivalent to 30 min daily of moderate intensity activity on 5 days a week) compared with no activity was associated with a reduction in mortality risk of 19% [95% confidence interval (CI) 15-24], while 7 h/week of moderate activity compared with no activity reduced the mortality risk by 24% (95% CI 19-29). We found a smaller effect in studies that looked at walking alone. Being physically active reduces the risk of all-cause mortality. The largest benefit was found from moving from no activity to low levels of activity, but even at high levels of activity benefits accrue from additional activity.

                Author and article information

                Environ Health Perspect
                Environ. Health Perspect
                Environmental Health Perspectives
                National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
                27 June 2016
                January 2017
                : 125
                : 1
                : 89-96
                [1 ]ISGlobal, Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology (CREAL), Barcelona, Spain
                [2 ]Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF), Barcelona, Spain
                [3 ]CIBER Epidemiología y Salud Pública (CIBERESP), Madrid, Spain
                [4 ]Physical Activity and Sports Sciences Department, Fundació Blanquerna, Barcelona, Spain
                [5 ]Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, Basel, Switzerland
                [6 ]University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland
                Author notes
                []Address correspondence to N. Mueller, ISGlobal, Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology (CREAL), Dr. Aiguader 88, 08003 Barcelona, Spain. Telephone: 0034 93214 7314. Email: natalie.mueller@ 123456isglobal.org

                Publication of EHP lies in the public domain and is therefore without copyright. All text from EHP may be reprinted freely. Use of materials published in EHP should be acknowledged (for example, “Reproduced with permission from Environmental Health Perspectives”); pertinent reference information should be provided for the article from which the material was reproduced. Articles from EHP, especially the News section, may contain photographs or illustrations copyrighted by other commercial organizations or individuals that may not be used without obtaining prior approval from the holder of the copyright.


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