Time for good behaviour
Access, act and ameliorate
This week we have been thinking a lot about how people interact with air quality information and whether they take action to protect their health. If we have a better understanding of this then we can make the way we present our data as impactful as possible. Of course, we are not the only ones looking at this - there are a variety of initiatives at international, national and local level aiming to increase awareness of air quality data. But we hope that combining the great data we gain by being part of the Breathe London initiative with understanding of our local community, we can make an impact.
Louise was lucky enough this week to speak to Dr Kayla Schulte, the co-author of a fantastic study on just this topic. The team from Imperial College London and Global Action Plan estimate that 28% of people in the UK have accessed air quality information. There are various groups that are more likely: under 36s, men and non-white individuals. Then when it comes to taking action on the information, one finding stands out: that those caring for someone with a health condition are more likely to take action (notably, not necessarily individuals who themselves have a condition). The study does not say much on what type of information helps encourage action, except that information accessed on digital channels is more effective.
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What kinds of actions can individuals take? We can all limit our exposure to air pollution if we have the right information to hand. This could involve moving around the city (and especially exercising) at times of lower pollution, taking different routes away from pollution and using active modes of travel. As a family we’ve thought about these issues a lot more when working out how to raise children in a city in a healthy way, especially around the school and nursery run.
It’s not just individuals or carers who could take action based on accessing air quality information. Doctors could also use an understanding of the environmental threats to their patients’ lives to provide better all-round care and advice. This is the thinking behind Great Ormond Street Hospital’s initiative to add air quality information to patients’ records. And backed up by a study in Bradford showing 50% of healthcare attendances for breathing difficulties could be triggered by breaches in daily air pollution limits - and as we’ve shown, our Breathe London data is showing far too regular breaches.
And of course, local authorities’ actions can have a huge impact. We compared some of their plans here. Recently, our local authority, Lambeth, announced an expansion of a further 32 locations across the borough for school streets. As we’ve covered, school streets are a great initiative to reduce pollution and improve safety for children at school drop off and pick up times. We look forward to even more Lambeth children benefitting from this!