Category Archives: Catharine Ward Thompson

‘Hard facts’ conference rounds off fantastic year of collaboration with Swedish university

On 30th November 2017, Catharine Ward Thompson will give a keynote lecture on greenspace, health and quality of life as part of the ‘Hard facts about soft values’ conference in Stockholm.

Organised by the Movium network at Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), the conference is primarily aimed at policymakers and civil servants at a range of levels, from local to national and international.

> Access presentations from the conference, including Catharine’s

The event rounds off a great year for our relationship with SLU, where Catharine received an Honorary Doctorate in October, gave a public lecture which was streamed live online, and was interviewed by Arkitekten journal.

SLU have said “Catharine’s publications on green environments are used extensively in SLU’s landscape education and have also had a big impact in practice. Her research is an inspiration and knowledge base for our own research on the importance of green environments for health and wellbeing, and she is a long-term collaborator with SLU researchers, for example in co-authored publications and in postgraduate education.”

> Watch Catharine’s Honorary Doctorate public lecture online 

Catharine receiving her Honorary Doctorate.

Catharine receiving her bespoke Honorary Doctorate’s hat at SLU. The moment was marked by a ceremonial trumpet flourish! Image © Jenny Svennås-Gillner/SLU

This year is a particularly special one for SLU, as it celebrates its 40th anniversary.

It is fitting, then, that 2017 has also seen the announcement of the Stockholm Declaration on Sustaining Resilient and Healthy Communities at the 10th European Public Health Conference which took place in the Swedish capital earlier this month.

Speaking at the conference alongside Kevin Lafferty of Forestry Commission Scotland and George Morris, formerly of NHS Health Scotland, Catharine again outlined the links between greenspace, health, wellbeing and resilience in a workshop on Public Landscapes for Public Health.

This was an excellent opportunity to share emerging findings from our research on Woods In and Around Towns, as well as to showcase the development of Scotland’s Natural Health Service – an example of innovative collaboration between the environment and health sectors in Scotland.

Find out more about Scotland’s Natural Health Service

It’s not just one way traffic! This month, OPENspace is delighted to have hosted a group of urban planners from Sweden awarded a grant from the Swedish Association of Transportation Planners to study the walkability of Edinburgh.

The group were particularly keen to know more about the Mobility, Mood and Place (MMP) project, which looked at older people’s mobility outdoors and its impact on health and wellbeing.

In findings we’ve shared through a short animation, MMP has found that older people walking between different types of urban environments show changes in their emotional response to place based on brain activity patterns. Green spaces seem to be restorative, offering a respite from the tiring demands that busy urban places make on our directed attention.

Reinforcing what we have found in earlier work, such as Inclusive Design for Going Outdoors (I’DGO), we have found that, when it comes to walkability, the mundane matters and the commonplace counts! Everyday things, such as pavement quality, benches and street lighting, can make all the difference as we get older.

> Watch our short animation on Mobility, Mood and Place

 

 

OPENspace research featured in new WHO Europe Action Brief on Urban Green Spaces

The European Regional Office of the World Health Organizaton (WHO) has launched a new Action Brief on Urban Green Spaces, building on extensive research in the field, including a number of studies by OPENspace.

The Action Brief is a beautifully-illustrated suite of practical guidance on how to maximise the health benefits of urban green spaces.

Designed for urban practitioners, it is based on, and summarises, two recent technical reports by WHO Europe:

‘Urban Green Spaces and Health: A review of evidence’ (2016), which cites a number of OPENspace research papers, and has a chapter co-authored by Professor Catharine Ward Thompson and Dr Eva Silveirinha de Oliveira.

‘Urban Green Space Interventions and Health: A review of impacts and effectiveness’ (2017), which includes our I’DGO and Woods In and Around Town (WIAT) projects as examples of how to assess the health benefits of environmental interventions.

Front cover of WHO publication

Having been cited by the WHO in its 2007 guidance on Global Age-friendly Cities, OPENspace has become a respected source of evidence for the organisation.

As well as citing our research in publications, WHO has invited Catharine to participate in a number of pan-European meetings and conferences, the most recent of which was the fourth European Conference on Biodiversity and Health in the face of Climate Change (Bonn, June 2017) at which she gave a plenary presentation and was interviewed by MDR, together with Bundesamt für Naturschutz (BfN) President, Beate Jessel.

 

Check out some of the visuals from the publication below, or access the document in full…

> Download the WHO Europe Action Brief on Urban Green Spaces

Download Urban Green Spaces and Health: A review of evidence

> Download Urban Green Space Interventions and Health: A review of impacts and effectiveness

 

Photo of a jogger in a park

Photo of an urban parkPhoto of an urban streetPhoto of two women gardening

Photo of a tram

Photo of a coastal path

OPENspace (and friends) at #RGSIBG16

It’s time for the Annual International Conference of the Royal Geographical Society, which is held in collaboration with the Institute of British Geographers.

The theme for 2016 is ‘nexus thinking’, a way of addressing the interdependencies, tensions and trade-offs between different environmental and social domains.

OPENspace is involved in five papers at this year’s conference, which you can follow on social media using the hashtag #RGSIBG16.

Here’s where you can find out more about two of our current research projects: Mobility, Mood and Place (which looks at older people’s mobility outdoors); and Woods In and Around Towns (which explores urban woodlands and quality of life in deprived communities).

RGS-IBG conference papers on Mobility, Mood and Place

Wednesday 31st August 2016

Measuring Wellbeing (11:10-12:50)      
Skempton Building, Lecture Theatre 207 

Mapping brain imaging as a measure of emotional wellbeing in older people walking in different urban spaces.

Dr Steve Cinderby* of The University of York will be presenting this paper, which has been co-authored by Dr Sara Tilley of OPENspace and colleagues at the Universities of Edinburgh, York, Heriot-Watt and University College London.

Thursday 1st September 2016

Everyday geographies of ageing (1): (im)mobility, independence and ageing ‘well’ (09:00-10:40) 
Sherfield Building, Room 10  

Living in the moment or experiences of a lifetime? Considering environmental influences past, present and future on mobility in older age

Professor Jamie Pearce of the The Human Geography Research Group at the University of Edinburgh will be presenting this paper, which has been co-authored by Professor Catharine Ward Thompson, Professor Jenny Roe, Dr Katherine Brookfield and Dr Sara Tilley at OPENspace, and colleagues at the Universities of Edinburgh, York, Heriot-Watt and King’s College London.

RGS-IBG conference papers on Woods In and Around Towns

Thursday 1st September 2016

Greenspace Justice for Health and Wellbeing (16:50-18:30) 
Royal School of Mines, Room G.06

Exploring parents’ perceptions and visits to local urban woodlands in deprived communities

Dr Sara Tilley of OPENspace will be presenting this paper, which has been co-authored by Dr Eva Silveirinha de Oliveira and Professor Catharine Ward Thompson.

On Friday 2nd September, Sara will also be chairing the first session on ‘Time at the nexus: mobility and modal choice’which she co-convenes with Dr Julie Clark of the University of Glasgow, and presenting her PhD research in the second session (again co-convened with Julie) in a paper entitled Understanding the Multi-Level Forces Affecting Mobility Trends.

* Steve will also be talking about MMP at the annual ‘research into policy’ event co-hosted by the Transport Geography Research Group and UK Department for Transport (DfT). This pre-conference event takes place at the DFT on Tuesday 30th August 2016. Steve’s presentation is entitled Interactions between urban infrastructure design and use on older people’s mobility and well-being: evidence from three UK case studies.


> Browse other conference papers given by OPENspace team members

Shifting the ground of environmental design evidence

This week, we’re at one of the most important conferences of the year for us, the 47th conference of the Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA).

Logo for E D R A conference

Since its formation in the late 1960s, EDRA has used its annual congress to bring together design professionals, social scientists, students, educators, and facility managers.

For EDRA47, the Association has ‘come home’ to its birthplace of North Carolina, where its very first conference was convened by Henry Sanoff in June 1969, sponsored by NC State’s School of Design and UNC’s Department of City and Regional Planning.

Under the theme of Innovation : Shifting Ground, the aim of EDRA47 is to take a global look at the driving force of innovation in environmental design.

Catharine Ward Thompson’s plenary on environmental design evidence

Catharine (Director of OPENspace) is one of EDRA47’s six keynote and plenary speakers.

In her plenary, she is focusing on environmental design’s potential to help address current global health crises (such as cardio-vascular disease, rising levels of obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and mental illness) and growing inequalities in health and wellbeing.

Catharine’s presentation explores what kinds of approaches are needed if environmental design, and landscape design in particular, is to be taken seriously by public health policy makers and planners as both health-enhancing (salutogenic) and reducing of health inequalities (equigenic).

It therefore considers the importance of working across and between disciplines, the use of innovative of methods (such as biomarkers and mobile neural imaging), the particular challenges involved in longitudinal studies to research design interventions, and the opportunities offered by natural experiments.

Insights from current and recent OPENspace research

In Catharine’s plenary presentation, she will draw on research from large-scale, collaborative projects such as Mobility, Mood and Place (MMP), GreenHealth, and Woods In and Around Towns (WIAT).

Over the course of the four-day conference, which runs from Wednesday 18th to Saturday 21st May 2016, these projects will also be presented in a series of papers by OPENspace researchers including Dr Sara Tilley, Dr Eva Silveirinha de Oliveira and Professor Jenny Roe.

The themes covered by the papers include Longitudinal Studies and Natural Experiments; Childhood Experience, Adult Perceptions and Visits to Woodlands; Timescales in Environmental Influences on Mobility in Older Age; Older People’s Brain Activities and Self-Reported Experiences of Short Urban Walks; and Experiences of Outdoor Environments by Women with Postnatal Depression.

Colleagues from collaborating research centres, such as the Stockholm Environment Institute at the University of York, will also be presenting.

PhD candidate scoops EDRA Great Places Award

We’re delighted to end this post by announcing that PhD researcher, Matluba Khan, has won the EDRA Great Places Award in the Place Design category for her project, An Outdoor Learning Environment for Children.

Announced on the first day of the EDRA conference, the Award was given to Matluba for a “submission [which] truly exemplifies the concern for human factors in the design of the built environment, and a commitment to promoting the links between design research and practice”.

Matluba’s project is the co-design and build of outdoor learning and play space at a rural primary school in Bangladesh. Her PhD is co-supervised by Dr Simon Bell and Dr Eva Silveirinha De Oliveira at OPENspace, and Dr Sarah McGeown of Moray House School of Education.

In 2014, Matluba won Overall Best Paper Award at the 45th EDRA conference in New Orleans.

The annual Great Places Awards are a collaboration with the global organisation, Project for Public Spaces. Chaired by  John Shapiro of the Pratt Institute, this year’s jury included Kofi Boone (North Carolina State University), Jill Pable (Florida State University), Michael Mehaffy (Sustasis Foundation) and Katie Roden (Centerbrook Architects and Planners).

Two researchers with an award

Find out more about EDRA47 on the Environmental Design Research Association website

Thoughts on place on World Physical Activity Day

It’s World Physical Activity Day, and the theme this year is
“Active Child, Healthy Adult!”.

At OPENspace, we are particularly interested in the role that quality green space and natural environments have to play in enabling and encouraging people to be active, from childhood into oldest age.

Photo of a child cycling in a park

In the last week alone, Catharine Ward Thompson has touched on this theme at three events across Europe:

  • the International Green Care Forum on the Health Promoting Effect of Landscapes and Gardens (in Vienna);
  • a promotional lecture for the International Green Infrastructure Conference (in Ljubljana);
  • the Government Office for Science Foresight Future of Ageing event (in London).

We welcome the opportunity that World Physical Activity Day brings to shed further light on the associations between access outdoors and patterns of physical activity, and of the importance of these associations throughout the life course.

In 2008, we published a paper called ‘The childhood factor: Adult visits to green places and the significance of childhood experience’ in Environment and Behavior.*

Drawing on data collected in different parts of Britain, we reported a strong relationship between frequent childhood visits to woodlands or green spaces and the likelihood of visiting such places, alone, in adult life.

The data also suggested that the physical and the emotional benefits of access to green space are strongly reflected in childhood experience.

Eight years on, with stories of diminishing childhood time spent outdoors still in the news (see yesterday’s Irish Times, for example), we’d like to finish with some conclusions from our paper…

“People who often visited green places as children are more likely to associate natural areas with feeling energetic and more likely to visit green or wooded areas within walking distance of home, both of which suggest that habits of healthy outdoor exercise as adults are linked to patterns of use established in childhood.

People who were frequent visitors as children are also more comfortable visiting woodlands and green places alone as adults and more likely to think green spaces can be magical places.

It appears that such people have not just a physical relationship with green outdoor places but also an emotional one that influences how people feel about themselves and makes them more open to positive and elemental experiences in these places. Because lack of confidence in going to parks or natural areas on one’s own may be a serious deterrent to people enjoying the physical, social, and psychological benefits of outdoor activities (Burgess, 1998), it is important to establish whether childhood experience can be a factor in increasing confidence levels for adult visits to such places.

Concerns about increased restrictions on today’s children and their freedom to roam outdoors, as expressed in the focus groups in our projects and described in the literature, must be reinforced by the possibility that this will be a factor in limiting healthy outdoor exercise and positive relationships with the environment when today’s children are adults”.

* Ward Thompson, C., Aspinall, P. and Montarzino, A. 2008. ‘The childhood factor: Adult visits to green places and the significance of childhood experience’ Environment and Behavior 40 (1) pp. 111-143. doi:10.1177/0013916507300119

We’re launching a new MSc in Landscape and Wellbeing!

OPENspace is delighted to announce a new MSc in Landscape and Wellbeing at Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) at the University of Edinburgh.

The one-year programme will take an innovative and interdisciplinary approach to understanding the importance of the environment for human health and wellbeing.

Delivered by an expert academic team led by Professor Catharine Ward Thompson, it will draw on the most advanced theoretical and methodological research in the field and is aimed at academics and practitioners working in landscape architecture, planning, design, geography, public health, psychology, epidemiology, horticulture and ecology.

It is designed to help you understand the evidence base on salutogenic landscapes (those that support and enhance human health and wellbeing), translate research into practice, and guide more effective environmental interventions.

Find out more about the programme on the ECA website

> Watch a recording of an online Q&A about the programme
(Please note that this requires you to install and run Blackboard Collaborate)

Another step forward for the National Walking Strategy

The National Walking Strategy Action Plan for the next ten years has been released, along with a new website and an infographic on how we can all contribute to ‘getting Scotland walking’.

OPENspace team members have played an active role in both the development of the Strategy (which was launched in 2014) and the new Action Plan, with Catharine Ward Thompson being a member of its Working Group and Delivery Forum, and Sara Tilley contributing to a workshop on its implementation.

The vision for the National Walking Strategy is “a Scotland where everyone walks as part of their everyday journeys, places are well designed for walking and everyone enjoys walking in the outdoors”.

The Action Plan was announced by Jamie Hepburn, the Scottish Government Minister for Sport, Health Improvement and Mental Health, at a ScotLINK Active Health seminar on Thursday 3rd March.

Read the Action Plan on the Step Change Scotland website

Infographic on walking

Let’s Get Scotland Walking – the new National Walking Strategy infographic

Catharine Ward Thompson appointed Honorary Professor at the University of Exeter Medical School

Our Director, Catharine Ward Thompson, has been appointed an Honorary Professor at the European Centre for Environment and Human Health (ECEHH).

Launched in May 2011, and led by Professor Lora Fleming, the Centre is part of the University of Exeter Medical School.

ECEHH research falls into two major areas: emerging threats to health and wellbeing posed by the environment; and the health and wellbeing benefits the natural environment can provide.

Catharine’s three-year appointment marks a strengthening of links between OPENspace and ECEHH which builds on previous knowledge exchange activities, such as the Blue Mind Summit, Sara Warber’s study visit to Edinburgh, and the two-day meeting Fostering Sustainable Environments for Improving Future Health and Wellbeing.

Visit the European Centre for Environment and Human Health website

Catharine at a conference dinner

Catharine in Macedonia for WHO Task Force meeting

Greetings from Skopje in Macedonia where Catharine is presenting evidence on urban green spaces and health to the World Health Organization European Environment and Health Task Force (EHTF).

The Task Force is the leading international body for implementation and monitoring of the European Environment and Health Process, and we welcome the emphasis it is placing on the relationship between the quality of our urban outdoor spaces and people’s health and wellbeing.

We are delighted to have been invited to talk about our research to the group, framing the issue in the wider context of topics such as land use, urban planning, urban adaptation to climate change and demographic changes.

We are also pleased that the presentation is being followed by a discussion on the formulation of policy goals and political commitments in this area.

Keep an eye oLogo of the World Health Organization European Environment and Health Processn the EHTF website for outcomes from the meeting and details of the Sixth Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health in 2017.

 

OPENspace at EUROCITIES 2015

We’re at the EUROCITIES 2015 conference in Copenhagen / Malmo, where Catharine Ward Thompson is bringing a focus on the pedestrian environment to a roundtable on urban mobility.

It’s a pleasure to be in such esteemed company. Sitting to Catharine’s right (in the blue scarf) is Hella Dunger-Loeper, Permanent secretary and State of Berlin Delegate to the Federation and former Permanent Secretary for Building and Housing at Berlin’s Senate Department for Urban Development…Catharine Ward Thompson speaking at the Eurocities conference

… and in this photograph, taken after the roundtable, she is pictured with panellist Klaus Bondam, Director of the Danish Cyclists’ Federation and former Chair of the EUROCITIES Mobility Forum…

Photo of Catharine Ward Thompson at Eurocities

Máire Cox also attends the conference to promote OPENspace research to policymakers within 130 of Europe’s largest cities.

And finally… we’re delighted to share the news that the City of Edinburgh won a EUROCITIES award at the conference for community participation in making the city more attractive and sustainable.

Logo for EUROCITIES 2015

More about EUROCITIES 2015, the focus of which was ‘sustainable growth and quality of life’