New research: urban and transport planning linked to 2,000 premature deaths per year in Barcelona and Madrid

From Barcelona Institute for Global Health, March 30, 2021

“The new study (paywall), published in Environmental Research, estimated the impact of non-compliance with international exposure level recommendations for air pollution … as well as excess heat, traffic noise and lack of green space on residents over 20 years of age in Barcelona and Madrid, cities with different urban planning practices.

“This study is the first to estimate premature mortality impacts and the distribution by socioeconomic status of multiple environmental exposures related to urban planning and transport in the two cities.

“As for methodology, the researchers used a tool called Urban and Transport Planning Health Impact Assessment (UTOPHIA) (open access), which was developed by a team at ISGlobal. ‘We compared current exposure levels with international recommendations and estimated the fraction of preventable premature deaths that could be avoided if we were to comply with those recommendations,’ explained [Tamara Iungman, lead author of the study].

“The findings showed that non-compliance with WHO’s exposure recommendations for air pollution, noise, and access to green space, along with excess heat, were associated with 1,037 premature deaths per year in Barcelona.

“For Madrid, the total number of deaths attributable to non-compliance with international recommendations was 902. Lack of green space was the exposure associated with the highest premature mortality (337 deaths per year) […]

“Co-author Mark Nieuwenhuijsen, Director of the Urban Planning, Environment and Health Initiative at ISGlobal, commented: ‘This analysis is in line with previous research showing that people living in more deprived neighborhoods tend to be more exposed to harmful environmental exposures compared to those living in wealthier areas, although this inequity varies according to the design characteristics and historical development of each city.’ ”

Read a summary of the study here. (~6 min.)

Return to Northern News here.