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Journal article sets out new approach to local air quality management

Public Health Wales’s Environmental Public Health Team has published new research to enhance local air quality management policy and action in Wales.

In their recent paper in Environmental Science and Policy, Environmental Public Health Consultants Dr Huw Brunt and Dr Sarah Jones propose a new approach to local air quality management risk assessment.

For the first time, this promotes the consideration of air pollution risks in a broader public health context. Called Health and Air Pollution Risk Assessment/Area Prioritisation (HAP-RAP), the new method takes users through data linkage and ranking techniques in order to identify and prioritise ‘at risk’ communities based on air pollution and public health needs.

The method, designed to meet a gap in existing air quality management prescribed processes, was developed through a partnership led by Public Health Wales and involving Cwm Taf University Health Board, Rhondda Cynon Taf and Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Councils, and Natural Resources Wales.

Dr Huw Brunt said: “This new approach recognises the importance of assessing and understanding relationships between air pollution problem and other linked public health priorities.

“The routine use of HAP-RAP can help us connect air quality management activities with wider policy and practice. We hope this leads to more effective, efficient and collaborative working across sectors. It could also create new opportunities for more innovative solutions.”

The tool has already been put to the test in the Cwm Taf University Heath Board area. Its application in practice has been evaluated by users, and its contribution to Wales’s Wellbeing Goals also assessed.

This work builds on earlier research carried out by the authors to explore and explain interactions between air pollution, deprivation and health in Wales. The available evidence suggests that the most deprived communities in society can be disproportionately affected by exposure to air pollution because of a ‘triple jeopardy’ where factors combine to modify effects.

Dr Sarah Jones added: “This approach builds on the unique legislative framework and opportunities to make improvements that the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act offers us in Wales.

“HAP-RAP contributes to the delivery of all seven wellbeing goals and we are now looking forward to building on the work that we began in Cwm Taf by making the tool available for use right across Wales.”