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New trends in urban environmental health research: from geography of diseases to therapeutic landscapes and healing gardens

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Urban living style is associated with various negative impacts on human health, e.g. connected with the environmental problems. Thus, promoting health of urban population is nowadays one of the most challenging issues of the 21st century together with the growing needs for sustainable development and establishment of the biophilic or livable cities. It is increasing awareness among researchers and health practitioners of the potential benefits to the health from activities in natural settings and especially from regular contact with nature, which can be perceived as a preventive medical tool. This paper discusses the close relationship between the concepts of health-supporting landscapes and sustainability in modern cities based on literature review and case studies from EU, Russian and Australian projects. We first review the historical and modern paradigms (of the various disciplines) which determine the discourse in nature – human health and well-being research. This includes examination of Hippocrates «naturalistic history», Humboldt’s concept of natural garden design; Oertel ‘s ‘Terrain Kur’; «salutogenic approach» of Antonovsky; McHarg’s Design with Nature; Ecopolis programme, Wilson’s biophilia and some other approaches. Then there is a comparative analysis of structural similarities and differences in the past and current scientific schools devoted to understanding human – landscape interaction. One of the principal arguments is that nature also has another value for health, regardless of natural remedies. It includes, for example, the healing of space, outdoor training trails in parks, everyday use of urban green spaces and peri-urban recreation areas for sport and exercises. We provide an analysis of some examples based on the modern concepts of biophilic cities, therapeutic landscapes, healing gardens, green infrastructure and nature-based solutions. This article also discusses the main types of healing gardens and therapeutic landscapes and suggests the framework of design principles of healing and therapeutic landscapes. The analysis proved that healing gardens and therapeutic landscapes provide multiple benefits and can be regarded as nature-based solutions. These essential aspects of multifunctionality, multiculturality and social inclusion are well intertwined with the approach of biophilia.

About the Authors

Diana Dushkova
Humboldt University Berlin; Lomonosov Moscow State University

Department of Geography, Berlin;

Faculty of Geography, Moscow

Maria Ignatieva
University of Western Australia, School of Design


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For citation:

Dushkova D., Ignatieva M. New trends in urban environmental health research: from geography of diseases to therapeutic landscapes and healing gardens. GEOGRAPHY, ENVIRONMENT, SUSTAINABILITY. 2020;13(1):159-171.

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