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The EEA’s European environment and health atlas is a compilation of data and maps that showcase key information about environmental quality and risks across Europe. We interviewed Gerardo Sanchez, an EEA expert on the environment, health and well-being, about the Atlas and who can benefit from it.
What is the European environment and health atlas?
The European environment and health atlas is a digital resource showcasing how the environment affects the health and wellbeing of European residents — in both good and bad ways.
In the Atlas, we compiled data from EEA member and collaborating countries. Some of the data come from us; some of the data come from other, trustworthy sources. We turned what we gathered into interactive maps and viewers that people can explore to learn more about the link between the environment, and health and well-being. While the Atlas is an EEA product, it is also a deliverable under the European Commission’s zero pollution action plan.
How is it built and how does it work?
The Atlas presents spatial data. We have worked quite hard to optimise the maps and viewers for all sorts of devices — from PCs to tablets, smartphones, etc.
It has four main sections, including maps organised by thematic areas, the ‘check your place’ widget and a ‘learn more’ section. The maps’ thematic areas are air, noise, water, green spaces, climate and inequalities. Within each area, people can see displays illustrating the major environmental risks and benefits for health.
The ‘check your place’ widget allows people to instantly generate an ‘environment and health scorecard’ with key information on environmental risks where they live, work or spend time. And the ‘learn more’ section provides additional information on each area, sources of data, key publications and explanatory videos with EEA experts.
How does the Atlas relate to the EEA’s work?
The Atlas is mainly built on data managed by the EEA, as well as on EEA analyses and studies. For example, it relies heavily on data from the EEA’s reports on air quality in Europe and noise, as well as on information from the European climate and health observatory. In addition, the Atlas is meant as a gateway to all EEA studies and data on environmental risks and assets that could affect health, either negatively or positively.
Who do you hope will use it?
The Atlas is targeted at the general public. For instance, in terms of design, we did not include functionalities that typically serve technical audiences (e.g. direct download). High-quality, validated information like we’ve included in the Atlas can be a powerful tool for change. We are hoping that users of the Atlas will find this information useful to enact change, from the individual level to their communities and ultimately towards policy changes at all levels.
Have you received any feedback?
We are particularly glad about the feedback we have received from several local authorities. We had not necessarily considered that this would be one of our key audience groups, but we are receiving many questions and (largely positive) feedback from them.
Are other similar services planned for the future?
We will update the Atlas according to the rhythms at which we receive new data. We also have plans to include a new product in the Atlas, the European Environment and Health Impacts Index (EHII). This is an indicator based on the health impacts of the most important environmental risks; it will provide a single figure for each country illustrating the environmental burden of disease of their population. In addition, we will include new products as important, new data streams become available, notably from our colleagues in the Copernicus programme.
This interview is part of EEA Signals 2023 — Environment and health in Europe.
See other articles in EEA Signals 2023
- Editorial — Caring for the environment is caring for ourselves
- Europe’s air is getting cleaner and improving people’s health
- Water quality and quantity are key for well-being
- Are you noticing the harmful noise around you?
- Safe and sustainable chemicals
- Heatwaves and other climate-related extremes are threatening health, especially for the most vulnerable
- Interview — Investing in safer chemicals