Seas, Oceans and Public Health in Europe (SOPHIE) was a pan-European initiative funded by H2020 and led by the University to coordinate research into the complex links between the marine environment, human health and wellbeing.
We worked with the European Marine Board, Deltares, NUI Galway, Netherlands National Institute for Public Health and Environment (RIVM), and SMEs Seascape, SUBMON and Travelecoology to deliver a clear road map for the future direction of Oceans and Human Health research in Europe.
Completed in 2020, SOPHIE allowed us to use our specialist expertise in developing and implementing public health and environmental policies and built on our ongoing work to improve the world’s understanding of the impact environments can have on health and wellbeing. By outlining the research needed to answer fundamental questions in the fields of oceans and human health, we are shaping how evidence is provided to policy makers and helping to improve ocean literacy in Europe and beyond. SOPHIE particularly built on the work of H2020 BlueHealth, a pan-European research initiative that investigated the links between urban blue spaces, climate and health, using interdisciplinary approaches to explore how human health and wellbeing might be promoted sustainably through the development of blue infrastructure.
Launched in Jan 2018 and funded by a €2 million investment from the EU’s
Horizon 2020 programme, SOPHIE fostered an Oceans and Human Health network to advance this emerging field across Europe. By taking a consistent, collaborative and co-ordinated approach, we have created a platform for different communities to work together and achieve sustainable interactions with coastal environments.
The positive influence of the SOPHIE project continues to be felt. Most recently, researchers from the SOPHIE project published a paper in the American Journal of Public Health, calling for the current UN Ocean Decade to act as a meaningful catalyst for global change, reminding us that ocean health is intricately linked to human health. The paper highlights 35 first steps for action by different groups and individuals, including individual citizens, healthcare workers, private organisations, researchers and policy-makers.
The marine environment and human health are inextricably linked and we have built a community of researchers and practitioners from two traditionally distinct groups: marine and environmental specialists, and medicine and public health, to enable transdisciplinary and trans-sector collaboration.
Our vision is taking targeted action in the areas of sustainable seafood for healthy people, improving blue spaces, tourism and wellbeing, and the use of marine biodiversity in disease prevention while preserving marine ecosystems.
Through SOPHIE, we are focused on developing best-practice guidance on collaboration with stakeholders and citizens, better understanding the state-of-the-art research and identifying gaps, providing policy advice and driving the movement in healthcare towards prevention rather than cure.
By raising awareness and consideration of inequalities that exist, and highlighting them as a key part of all decision-making, we’re enabling a culture of care that supports the sustainable use of the wider ocean and coastal ecosystems.