Living close to the coast has been shown to boost people’s mental health

€2 million project to explore links between oceans and human health

The European Union is investing €2 million (£1.78m) to coordinate research into the complex links between oceans and human health and wellbeing.

Led by the University of Exeter Medical School and funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme, the Seas, Oceans and Public Health in Europe (SOPHIE) project launches in December 2017 and will run for two and a half years.

SOPHIE will set out the future direction of oceans and human health research in Europe, and builds on ongoing work at the University of Exeter to improve our understanding of the impacts environments such as ‘blue spaces’ can have on health and wellbeing.

It will also develop a European network of experts and groups involved in oceans and human health, and create a legacy that will advance this field across the world beyond the end of the project.

Professor Lora Fleming, Director of the European Centre for Environment & Human Health, will lead SOPHIE and believes the project’s launch is timely.

“Over the last ten years we’ve contributed to a growing body of evidence which suggests both the marine environment and human health are inextricably linked,” she said.

“Yet we’ve lacked a consistent and coordinated approach to develop these findings further and use them to inform policies. SOPHIE will finally help us to do this, creating a platform for different communities to work together and achieve sustainable interactions with coastal environments.”

Living close to the coast has been shown to boost people’s mental health, yet there are also health risks that must be managed.

Man-made pollutants released into our oceans, seas and rivers contribute to 250 million cases of gastroenteritis each year, while poisoning from harmful algal blooms can have severe physical effects.

The project will explore the complex interplay between the health of the marine environment and that of humans, and through a series of forums and events, aims to build a community of researchers and practitioners from two traditionally distinct groups; marine and maritime specialists; and the medical and public health sector.

SOPHIE includes members from academia, small and medium sized businesses, and government, with the team holding particular expertise in developing and implementing public health and environmental policies.

Dr Paula Kellett, Science Officer at the European Marine Board, said: “At a time when both our environments and healthcare systems are under renewed pressure, this project presents a fantastic opportunity to build and execute a future vision for ocean and health research across Europe.

“We are excited by the multidisciplinary team we have assembled and hope that we can push forward the integration of research into policy in ways which have positive outcomes for people’s health and wellbeing, as well as for the health of the ocean.”

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 774567. Further information will be available when the project begins.

The full list of partners is:

Date: 26 October 2017

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