The CitieS-Health pilot project at Kaunas, Lithuania, is a citizen science study that has involved participants from the general public to help answer relevant scientific questions and to generate new knowledge. The major challenges of the study were overcome by good planning of the cross-sectional study and by the usage of formalized questionnaires and standard protocols. Citizens’ participation in the assessment of the quality of the urban environment and health problems made an important contribution when identifying environmental health problems.
Citizens’ participation in urban environmental quality assessment is important when identifying local problems in the sustainable development and environmental planning policy. “The main aim of this study was to analyze whether any social differences exist between the joint effect of built neighborhood quality and exposure to urban green spaces and the risk of hypertension”, explained Regina Grazuleviciene, researcher from the Department of Environmental Science at the Vytautas Magnus University (VMU) and coordinator of the pilot project.
Image: Central Kaunas (Wikipedia)
The study sample consisted of 580 participants residing in 11 districts in Kaunas. Geographic information systems, individual data on the socioeconomic status (SES) and health were linked to the participants’ perceptions of the environmental quality and exposure to green spaces, known as NDVI. Researchers used multivariate logistic regression to estimate associations as odds ratios. Researchers found that those study participants with lower education and those study participants with higher education on low incomes rated their health significantly worse. Then, low physical activity, poor socioeconomic situation, and low greenness levels were the determinants significantly associated with hypertension risk. Low SES persons residing in areas with low exposure to green spaces had a significantly higher risk of hypertension when sex, age, family status, smoking, and income were accounted for. “This citizen science study provided evidence that the social environment and the quality of the built environment had a complex effect on disparities in the risk of hypertension”, said Grazuleviciene.
In future studies, the integration of objective physical activity measurements using sensors would encourage volunteer participation, reduce exposure misclassification, and allow for obtaining detailed data to increase the sensitivity of the results. “Involvement of motivated long-term participants in the study and assurance of regular feedback on how their contribution is used for answering the research questions relevant for the community would contribute to the activity of the participants involved in citizen science. The implementation of a policy for the reduction of modifiable environmental risks and elimination of health disparities might produce a beneficial effect on communities’ health and well-being”, concluded Sandra Andrusaityte, also researcher from the Department of Environmental Science at the VMU.
Grazuleviciene, R.; Andrusaityte, S.; Gražulevičius, T.; Dėdelė, A. Neighborhood Social and Built Environment and Disparities in the Risk of Hypertension: A Cross-Sectional Study. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17, 7696. https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/17/20/7696#cite