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City greenning as a factor of ensuring population health

Yerevan State Medical University, Armenia, Yerevan. Associate Professor, Department of Hygiene and Ecology, Yerevan State Medical University. M. Heratsi , Ph.D., Kristina Karenovna Vardanyan

In recent decades, issues of urban planning have been the focus of attention not only of specialists, but also of the entire world community, becoming one of the most important problems of the century. A large modern city changes almost all the constituent elements of nature, since it experiences the most concentrated technogenic loads on the natural environment. The main factors of the urban environment that negatively affect the human body include: unfavorable natural conditions worsened as a result of urbanization of space; pollution of the air, soil and waters of the city; noise discomfort; heat island effects, electromagnetic and radiation backgrounds. In the formation of the urban landscape and the creation of the necessary sanitary and hygienic conditions for the life of the population, green spaces play a decisive role. Issues of landscaping are especially relevant for southern cities, given the multifaceted impact of heat stress on public health.


When rationally organized, the landscaping system as a whole and its individual elements have a significant impact on the most important indicators of environmental quality. Large-scale landscaping of the city softens the heat load, protects against hot winds carrying dust, and regulates the microclimate of the territory. Vegetation cover significantly affects the albedo of the surface, changing the intensity of solar radiation, thus being a powerful regulator of the temperature regime of the area. Air pollution affects both premature mortality and morbidity rates in the population. In 2019, exposure to PM2.5 resulted in 175,702 cases of disability due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in 30 European countries. At the same time, exposure to NO2 resulted in 175,070 cases due to diabetes mellitus (also known as type 2 diabetes) in 31 European countries. In the same year, 12,253 people from 23 European countries were hospitalized with lower respiratory tract infections resulting from acute ozone exposure. Studies have shown that with Covid-19, the highest mortality and severe cases of illness were in those regions of the world where there was air pollution. An analysis of the incidence of children 0-14 years old in Russia showed that for the period 2012-2018. In the Russian Federation, an increase in primary and general morbidity in children 0-14 years old was registered in the classes of neoplasms (+14.4%), congenital anomalies (+7.2%), diseases of the endocrine system (+7%) and eye diseases (+3. 7%). These are eco-dependent diseases. In the structure of children's morbidity, up to 2/3 of cases were respiratory diseases, which is an important predictor of polluted air.


An analysis of 8.6 million people living in London between 2003 and 2010 found that in areas with daytime noise levels above 60 dB, people were 4% more likely to die than in areas with noise levels below 55 dB [ 18]. Road traffic in European cities exposes 60 million people to harmful noise. A study based on data from 749 cities found that adherence to WHO recommendations could prevent more than 3600 deaths annually from coronary heart disease alone [23]. A study by the Barcelona Institute of Global Health, which examined the impact of heat on human health during the summer months in 93 European cities with a total population of more than 57 million people, found that urban heat islands increase mortality by 4% during the summer months. If cities covered 30% of their area with green space, 2,664 premature deaths could be avoided in Europe.


Since green spaces are considered as an important factor in improving the sanitary, hygienic and living conditions of the urban population and, at the same time, as a means of beautifying the city and creating the most comfortable living conditions for the population, scientific and design proposals for the development of landscaping and its impact on health are very diverse. The natural landscape, whether natural or artificial, actively contributes to the restoration of strength and the restoration of a fluid balance between the body and the environment. Communication with nature leads to the relief of nervous tension and calmness, which is especially evident among residents of large cities.


As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and related events, mental health has been negatively impacted. High levels of stress and anxiety had the most severe effects. Quarantine and the isolation associated with it have increased the level of loneliness, depression, as well as the frequency of drug use, self-harm, and suicide. (WHO, 2020), which has increased the already high burden of mental disorders. The best way to protect the mental health of the population is accessibility to Nature and water-green infrastructure. A study conducted in Sweden demonstrated that listening to natural and urban sounds had different effects on a person's stress recovery process. The sounds of nature greatly facilitate and speed up the process of recovery from stress, in contrast to the sounds characteristic of an urban environment. American researchers have proven that physical and visual contact with green areas is a living key to health. Greening elements must be introduced into relatively dense urban areas, including public buildings and open areas, since urban design has a significant impact on the health and well-being of the population. A study was conducted in the Netherlands that found an association between proximity to green areas and the prevalence of disease. The lowest rates of reported illnesses, especially anxiety and depression, were in areas located within 1 km of green spaces.


Not only physical, but also visual contact with nature has a positive effect on a person’s physical and mental health. The human visual environment, simply contemplating nature through a window, can provide ample opportunities for recovery from stress. A study conducted by R. Kaplan in six high-rise buildings showed that contemplating natural elements from an apartment window was significantly more likely to increase residents' environmental satisfaction and self-esteem than contemplating dull cityscapes. Current scientific literature confirms the positive association between contact with nature and children's health, particularly in relation to physical activity and mental health, which is a public health priority. Contact with nature promotes physical activity, improves cognitive function and reduces the severity of behavioral disorders in children. The environment has been found to play a much larger role in the health of children living in poor urban environments than previously recognized. The study's findings indicate that children whose living conditions improved after exchanging apartments for housing in greener areas subsequently tended to have higher levels of cognitive function than previously found. In addition, children who grew up in green spaces were 55% less likely to suffer from mental illness afterwards.


In recent decades, the rapid aging of the world's population has made it urgent to promote successful aging strategies that are cost-effective, easily accessible, and more acceptable to older people. With the rising cost of health care, it is especially important to study the benefits of contact with nature to improve the mental and physical health of older people. The rapid rate of aging of the world's population and the rising cost of medical services make it urgent to promote successful aging strategies that are cost-effective, easily accessible, and more acceptable to older adults.


Literary data indicate a positive relationship between activities based on the use of Nature Based activity (horticultural therapy, gardening, visiting public gardens and physical education in green areas of the city, etc.) and health and cognitive functions in the elderly. The study, including 8,324,652 people from seven countries, found a strong inverse relationship between increases in environmental greenery and the risk of all-cause mortality. Irregularly shaped parks reduce the risk of death for residents living near them, according to a new study. Its findings suggest that connecting existing parks with green space or adding


Thus, the above allows us to assert that recreational areas and landscaped parks are the health and comfort of every city resident of any age and income. Green areas in the city are a powerful sanitary and psycho-hygienic factor in the formation and regulation of the parameters of the urban environment, and a structured and interconnected landscaping system is a powerful resource for improving the environment, as well as improving the health and quality of life of people.

The material is posted with the permission of the author.