Where do you want to live or place your company? The quality of the physical environment is an important consideration in such decisions, and is determined by many factors such as air quality, traffic noise and possibilities for physical activity and recreation. TNO has extensive expertise in the field of environment and health, and translates this knowledge into guidelines and advice on how to develop the physical environment.
The environment we live in has a significant impact on our health, explains TNO researcher Frank Pierik: 'This has been shown in research that we carry out in collaboration with various organisations. The relevant factors include possibilities for physical activity, the presence of green spaces, air quality, the reduction of noise, and access to facilities.'
In order to identify the integral effect of all these environmental factors, TNO developed 'Urban Strategy', decision-support software for interactive spatial planning. Policymakers and other stakeholders can use Urban Strategyto analyse the effects of proposed policies, and optimise those policies in terms of health. This is done not only for the aspect to which measures apply, but also for other relevant aspects. For example, if a municipality decides to build more homes in an area, Urban Strategy can analyse the implications for e.g. energy consumption, climate, safety and environmental quality. To assess how the various factors affect health, TNO can also give a summarised score. This Public Health Impact (PHI), or DALY (Disability-Adjusted Life Years) score, integrates all factors into a single number that enables policymakersto assess, for example, the health consequences of urban densification.
An example of a TNO project is the Schoolzones project, in which TNO works together with the Jantje Beton (a foundation set up to promote play among children), the Netherlands Institute for Sport and Physical Activity (NISB), Royal Haskoning DHV, the City Region of Amsterdam, The Hague University of Applied Sciences and the Amsterdam Municipal Health Service, to provide environments around schools that encourage physical activity among children. TNO also advises on other ways to encourage people to participate in healthy physical exercise. For example: advice regarding the accessibility of facilities for the elderly to facilitate the elderly in sustained living independently. TNO can provide input for spatial planning based on a unique combination of advice, advanced software and its own research. Pierik: 'This means that our advice on environment and health is well-founded and practicable. If there are public-sector bodies, private organisations and businesses that would like to know more, they should not hesitate to contact us!'