The main objective of GIOCONDA is to provide European Local Authorities with an innovative methodology that effectively supports policies on Environment and Health involving young people.
The idea was presented to different Italian institutions (Ministry of Education, National Association of Municipalities, Environmental Associations, NGOs, schools), which gave their convinced support.
The main novelty carried by GIOCONDA is the involvement of youth as protagonists of a real and continuative action of participative democracy. Involving young people in decisions regarding environment and health is relevant for several reasons: young people are the most vulnerable subjects to environmental pressures; a lot of scientific research and prevention measures are dedicated to young citizen, but they are not directly involved; they are key-actors for future actions to improve the quality of environment and the health; their perception of environmental risk is an important indicator of perception, attitudes, worries, and wishes of the entire community.
The proposal finds further roots in Parma Declaration on Environment and Health (WHO 2010), with specific commitment to protect children health.
GIOCONDA was carried out combining two monitoring systems: one based on environmental data collection on air and noise pollution in GIOCONDA’s sites, the other based on risk perception of teenagers and their willingness-to-pay (WTP) in relation to environment and health.
Starting from a network of Municipalities and other Local Authorities in four partner locations in Italy (Napoli, Taranto, Ravenna and Lower Valdarno Valley), GIOCONDA developed and tested a Platform to address environment and health risk governance and policies, which can be extended to the European level. It includes a tool that allows decision makers to estimate costs and benefits of policies targeting young individuals’ health, and a tool that provides schools with the opportunity to measure the perception of students about neighborhood environment.
Once GIOCONDA’s tools are regularly adopted by a core of local Authorities and a variety of key professionals at the local level, it will contribute to realize an institutionalized participation of youth in decision-making on environmental issues.
GIOCONDA started in June 2014 and completed its activities at the end of year 2016. The Platform is now available to be used.
Environmental problems targeted
Providing sound and accessible information for public decisions on environment and health is one of the priorities of the LIFE+ Environment Policy and Governance. This program targets one of the main priorities of the Parma Declaration (2010): Protecting children and youngsters from the environmental pollution.
The LIFE+ GIOCONDA project aimed to tackle these priorities by providing a tool to assess the local environmental risk in four areas in Italy, under different environmental pressures, involving young people.
Environment, health, and young people: GIOCONDA’s frame
Young individuals are particularly vulnerable to environmental pressures and their effects on health. To frame and face this problem, GIOCONDA gathers the requirements of the LIFE+ Environment Policy and Governance Program to develop sound information to feed present and future policies on environment and health.
Among the policy documents from which this Program, and therefore GIOCONDA, take inspiration and motivation there are the European Environment & Health Action Plan 2004-2010 and the Parma Declaration on Environment and Health, included among the priorities of the Italian Ministry of Environment for LIFE plus program 2013.
In 1999, the UN highlighted that promoting youth participation in environment and development decision-making is a major factor for the success of Agenda 21. The reduction and prevention of health outcomes associated with environmental factors have become a European priority since the Third ministerial conference on environment and health in 1999. In 1999, at the IV Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health (Budapest, 2004), all the European Ministers signed the Children Environment and Health Action Plan for Europe. They committed themselves to protecting young individuals from environmental risk and to endorsing the WHO Children’s Health and Environment Program. Children’s Environment and Health Program for Europe was drafted to set regional priority goals for European countries to reduce, and, where possible, to eliminate, children’s exposure to environmental health risks. Children’s Environment and Health Program for Europe, the European Environment & Health Action Plan 2004-2010 and the Parma Declaration on Environment and Health, emphasize the importance of involving young generations in the processes of decision making because, as suggested by Licari, Nemer and Tamburlini (2005) “young people are a resource for change”.
According to the WHO, promoting the education of children about their physical environment and their participation in decisions that affect their lives are among the main steps for reducing the environmental burden of disease that heavily affects the younger generations. The members of the Conference agreed on strengthening of participative tools in order to involve young people, developing of environment and health indicators according to the European Environment and Health Information System (ENHIS), and realizing initiatives on the perception of risk, its assessment, management and communication. Moreover, and coherently with this frame, the topic of environment, health and young people finds a fertile ground in the Action Strategy for Sustainable Development in Italy 2002-2010.
Following in what was stated in this document, GIOCONDA, while building an innovative methodology to support policies on environment and health, is planned to act in favor of the “integration of the environmental issues in all the sectors’ policies”, and for this reason it involves educational issues, economic impacts and scenario risk local maps. Involving the youth in the construction of this tool means to strengthen their participation in an active manner, promoting their commitment and empowerment, and therefore constitutes an investment in a sustainable future.
Air, Noise, and Urban environment: a strategic approach
GIOCONDA contributes to the integration of the environmental local issues within the local health policies and, more generally, to the decisions about the management and streamlining of the urban environment in terms of environmental, social and economic sustainability.
Taking environment and health at its centre, GIOCONDA’s structure includes some of the key issues of the current LIFE+ program, and, in particular:
Air: in characterizing the environmental quality of the areas included in the project, ad hoc measures of air quality – integrated with the current local data – helps decision makers to develop evidence-based policies to promote (when needed) measures against the risks to the environment and human health.
Noise: beside air measurement, GIOCONDA builds risk maps on noise data, indoor and outdoor, and therefore contribute to the definition and fulfillment of the policies on noise pollution.
Urban environment: in studying GIOCONDA’s four different areas, the partners conducted a socioeconomic and epidemiological characterization. While air and noise quality were measured, the projects’ partners collected the risk perception data and the Willingness-to-Pay of the youngsters and parents, who study and live in those areas. At the end of this process, the results were discussed in the sampled schools to provide the local authorities with recommendations to improve the status of the environment in living urban areas.
As GIOCONDA’s tool is built up on an integrated and multidisciplinary view, it provides local authorities and stakeholders with a strategic approach to support sustainable development policies. Operating through this consistent system also reinforces the local governance indicators.
Last but not least, the environmental problems faced by GIOCONDA have been approached in diverse areas, under different environmental pressures and in different socio-economic situations. This helped to construct a valid tool, which is widely applicable. On the other side, GIOCONDA’s actions gave the possibility to youngsters to express themselves in different social and “ecological” environments.
GIOCONDA was implemented in 4 areas, identified both by different environmental status, and by different socio-cultural development:
– Naples (960.000 inhabitants): the city lives under complex environmental pressures, first of all because of its high level of air pollution due to the traffic (it is among the Italian cities with the highest infringements of limit value for daily average PM10 concentration) and second because of the infamous waste management. Naples has a strategic meaning for GIOCONDA, because it has been the place where the pilot study Respiriamolacittà (“Breath the city”) has been carried out; the very first structure and findings of the pilot study were the inspiration to develop the whole GIOCONDA concept.
– Taranto (200.000 inhabitants): the city hosts the biggest steel industry of Europe; recently, the levels of pollution and their impact on health have become an emergency and a national priority; pivotal epidemiological studies and human biomonitoring activities are in progress in the area; these studies are conducted by the research group of IFC-CNR, Coordinating Beneficiary of GIOCONDA.
– Ravenna (154.000 inhabitants): located on the Adriatic coast, the city hosts an important industrial area with a high level of environmental risk, an important harbour and a relevant vehicular traffic. The commitment of the Municipality for a better environmental development is re-known because of the great effort in the field of Environment Policy and Governance (e.g. IDEMS – Integration and Development of Environmental Management Systems, awarded as Best LIFE Environment Projects 2010). In this area, initiatives involving young citizens are active and fostered by the local administration.
– Valdarno Inferiore (4 Municipalities, 69.000 inhabitants): characterized by plains and hills, Valdarno Inferiore is a region with a high density of small towns, agriculture and craft industry (leather production); it is the headquarter of the Società della Salute (the Health Company), a consortium of a local health agency (ASL11) and 4 Municipalities in the Pisa Province (Castelfranco di Sotto, Montopoli in Val d’Arno, San Miniato e Santa Croce sull’Arno).
In every location, two different areas under different environmental pressures were chosen. Per each of the resulting eight areas, a school was identified and the methodology applied (school and living neighborhood socio-economic and epidemiological characterization, air and noise measurements). Thus, it was possible to understand what kind of differences in terms of actual risk and risk perception among youngsters and their parents are apparent. On this consistent system of data, the young students themselves could deliver their recommendations for policy makers during special local engagement events.