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Nature-based citizen science as a mechanism to improve human health in urban areas


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Williams, CR, Burnell, SM, Rogers, M, Flies, EJ ORCID: 0000-0002-1013-0330 and Baldock, KL 2022 , 'Nature-based citizen science as a mechanism to improve human health in urban areas' , International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, vol. 19, no. 1 , pp. 1-13 , doi: 10.3390/ijerph19010068.

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The world is becoming increasingly urbanised, impacting human interactions with natural environments (NEs). NEs take a number of forms, ranging from pristine, modified, to built NEs, which are common in many urban areas. NEs may include nature-based solutions, such as introducing nature elements and biological processes into cities that are used to solve problems created by urbanisation. Whilst urbanisation has negative impacts on human health, impacting mental and physical wellbeing through a number of mechanisms, exposure to NEs may improve human health and wellbeing. Here, we review the mechanisms by which health can be improved by exposure to NEs, as explained by Stress Reduction Theory, Attention Restoration Theory, and the 'Old Friends'/biodiversity hypothesis. Such exposures may have physiological and immunological benefits, mediated through endocrine pathways and altered microbiota. Citizen Science, which often causes exposure to NEs and social activity, is being increasingly used to not only collect scientific data but also to engage individuals and communities. Despite being a named component of scientific and environmental strategies of governments, to our knowledge, the intrinsic health benefits of Citizen Science in NEs do not form part of public health policy. We contend that Citizen Science programs that facilitate exposure to NEs in urban areas may represent an important public health policy advance.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Williams, CR and Burnell, SM and Rogers, M and Flies, EJ and Baldock, KL
Keywords: natural environments, urbanisation, public health, policy, Citizen Science
Journal or Publication Title: International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Publisher: MDPI
ISSN: 1661-7827
DOI / ID Number: 10.3390/ijerph19010068
Copyright Information:

© 2021. The Authors. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) License ( The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

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