The City of Eindhoven has the unique situation that it equiped with high tech monitoring equipment that measures in real time the exposure of city residents and visitors to air pollution. The objective of the city and AiREAS is to co-create health and a healthy environment. This is not easy because, despite the positive intentions, the pervers situation is still that the largest public investments go to polluting roadworks and traffic optimization. It shows that the biggest innovation in the city is its governance. Instead of just resonating to city development from a political and economical point of view there is a strong tendency to transform the city’s cement, glass and tarmac into a healthy and co-creative eco-system that leads to health and self sustaining productivity and public involvement. The latter is a trend in which the high tech city of integral innovation, Eindhoven, takes the “sustainocratic” lead.
Key is the co-creative positioning of AiREAS in the space provided by governance that sees itself in the healthy city development not as a controlling bureaucracy but as a partner in a multidisciplinary context. During nearly 2 years of air quality measuring experiences AiREAS has gained a huge amount of insight in pollution mechanisms in the city. Events that draw huge crowds and often many vehicles tend to be part of such polluting peaks. Cases have been documented and are subject to multidisciplinary discussions on health driven applied innovation.
The marathon is not necessary related in our mind to producing pollution. On the other hand it is a specular event that has many thousands of local participants training every day in a variety of local air quality circumstances, to eventually peak their performance on this second Sunday of October. They are there exposed to all kinds of air pollution. Today a multidisciplinary AiREAS team gathered, together with organizing company Golazo Sports SX, to see how we can embed this particular event within the overall “healthy city” development that we stand for as a group, including the local governance as partner?
When addressing the issue from a “healthy city, healthy environment” perspective one can fly in from all kinds of angles. The event can be seen as a stand alone event with a tremendous public exposure but also some city irritation because of blocked roads, limited public transport facilities and huge crowds along roads for something that captures the interest of a limited few. It can also be addressed as something people live towards with different motivations, some as participant others as innovators or hospitality business owners. Yet another view is to see the event as a potential health trigger full of instruments to use within the context civilian participation and platform to invent or test innovations. The team addresses every angle as long as it contributes to measurable health and environmental improvement, not just during the event but also using the event in the overall city context.
The discussion rapidly evolved around the overall issue of physical exercise as a key to overall health. The human body is not made to sit all day inside a building. The negative effects of lack of exercise and excessive indoor activity is visible in all aspects of our population and health problems. It is not just air pollution, which may be something that is enhanced due to reduced defense system, but the overall societal system and lifestyle. Our city’s are not designed for health nor is our money driven culture. The marathon hence is exactly the opposite. It represents huge physical exercise, determination to complete 42+ km and more hours in the open air than most people enjoy during their normal life’s rhythms.
What can we do then to enhance this in such a short term as presented today. October 11th is just 6 weeks away and as from next week the operational organization will be working around the clock to get things organized. What can we contribute that makes a difference already at this stage and without any budget (yet)?
This is what we came up with:
- We know the air quality before, during and after the event itself in real time thanks to our ILM system. This we can use.
- We can also compare this with the data stored about the situation during last year’s marathon. Then we have a case with which we can work for forthcoming events, including new marathons.
- We can determine hotspots of pollution along the route and see if we can introduce innovations or remedies that can solve the issues temporarily. They benefit from the exposure.
- We can position the Eindhoven marathon in context with others such as Beijing (China).
- Along the route we can enhance the health feeling by also introducing healthy food and connecting local productivity.
- Parallel events can be organized along the route, such as heart rate variability or blood pressure measurements with a select group of participants (runners and public) using our POP medical team.
- GPS trackers can follow some runners to create a health story.
- We can interview people and follow them with a camera crew.
This is more or less how far we got. Time and resources are limited but the will power is there to make and initial statement. After this particular marathon we can use our experiences to see if we can built everything further. Ideas already where suggested, such as the integration of awareness building exercises with school pupils, addressing enterprises that have unhealthy industries (s.a. welding companies in the region), developing recreation in the region creating events on water, or between the cities.
The sky is the limit as long as it measurably contributes to health and air quality improvement.The innovations we develop represent a new economic wave that helps solve the climate issues and perverse investment attitude in current cities by showing how politics and economics can be harmonically related to health, and not the other way around when lack of health is ironically seen as a cost that is exposed to the public through insurance and taxes.