The physical environment has a significant impact on the health and well-being of people. People living in a green neighbourhood experience a better health and have a higher (healthy) life expectancy. Especially citizens with a low income and/or level of education and with a poor health seem to benefit from a good access to green environments like parks and gardens, even more so when they actively engage with these environments and participate in green activities. A challenge is that these more vulnerable citizens generally have less access to green environments, that the quality of their green environment is often low and that they are generally less engaged in green activities than other citizens. To stimulate an active use of the green environment by more vulnerable citizens, it must be attractive to them and be in line with their preferences and demands.
The aim of the project is to investigate how the greening of the living environment can stimulate the active green participation of especially more vulnerable citizens as a way to improve their health and to reduce socioeconomic health disparities. The project will focus on two cities, Arnhem en Nijmegen, that both are already working on citizen participation and incorporating the green environment in health and environmental policies.
The project will be executed by a consortium of renowned research organisations (Wageningen University and Research, VU Amsterdam, Radboud University Nijmegen), the cities of Arnhem and Nijmegen, nature and societal organisations and green initiatives of citizens with expertise in the field of nature-health interactions, landscape architecture, citizen science, diversity, participatory action research and community participation.
Activities that will be conducted are A) a literature study focusing on which aspects of green environments are generally conducive to health benefits, as well as on the specific demands and preferences of more vulnerable citizens, and ways to stimulate their participation in green environments B) sharing and analyzing experiences of citizen initiatives in Arnhem and Nijmegen on greening their neighbourhood and their interaction with local authorities C) experimenting with and comparing different approaches using neighbourhood scans in Arnhem and Nijmegen to increase active involvement of citizens in identifying their demands and preferences; D) selecting and preliminary pilot-testing of promising approaches that can be monitored in the next phase, E) developing a knowledge agenda, and project proposal for the next phase including a description of pilots and promising approaches to improve the health of citizens by greening their environment and indicators and schemes to monitor the impact and embedding in the ‘omgevingsvisie’ (environmental vision) of the cities of Arnhem and Nijmegen and F) continuous sharing of knowledge and lessons at local, regional and national level.