Paper on the potential of healthy urban microbiome initiatives


Becca has co-authored a paper with colleagues from the Universities of Tasmania and Adelaide and Public Health Dorset highlighting the potential of urban microbiome initiatives for promoting public health. In the paper we suggest that:

“…Urban green spaces have a clear benefit to both environmental and human health. The mechanisms behind this connection are not yet clear, but exposure to biodiverse environmental microbiomes provides one possible explanation with tremendous promise for public health applications. If we can identify the characteristics of health-giving urban microbiomes, we can then manipulate aspects of the environment to promote microbial biodiversity (e.g. urban spaces with a diverse structure, flora and fauna), and promote the types of interactions that put people in contact with these beneficial environmental microbiomes…”

We argue that to acheive this we need:

  • “…more place-based, preventative, wellness-focused healthcare systems that interact with urban planners, environmental managers and politicians to promote healthy urban designs and living.
  • …greater evidence of the mechanisms, and characteristics connecting green spaces to health. 
  • …better decision-making frameworks (e.g. integration of ecological networks or complexity science) to support the trade-offs surrounding healthy urban design” 

More information on the development of microbiome interventions can be found on the associated HUMI (Healthy Urban Microbiome Initiative) site. HUMI seeks to understand and recreate the immune-boosting power of high quality, biodiverse green spaces in our cities to maximise population health benefits, bring significant savings to health budgets, while delivering gains for biodiversity.

Emily J. Flies, Chris Skelly, Rebecca Lovell, Martin F. Breed, David Phillips & Philip Weinstein (2018) Cities, biodiversity and health: we need healthy urban microbiome initiatives, Cities & Health, DOI: 10.1080/23748834.2018.1546641


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