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Unmet needs and service gaps

Background papers: Lifestyle and wider determinants :: Air Quality [Update in progress] :: Unmet needs and service gaps

It is immediately noticeable that Medway's AQMAs, i.e. where pollution levels are monitored because air quality does not meet the objective set by the EU Directive and the UK's own Air Quality Strategy, are in some of its most deprived wards. This correlates with the literature, in which deprived communities are most likely to experience the worst air quality.

The possibility of providing air quality text alerts for vulnerable groups (the young, elderly, pregnant women and those with existing COPD and respiratory conditions) could be explored, based upon existing services in Greater London, Surrey, Sussex and Southampton, and using existing data collected by Kent Air.

The majority of air quality monitoring in Medway is focussed on measuring NO2 across 23 automatic monitoring sites. However, the Public Health Outcomes Framework provides data on PM2.5 as the pollutant most harmful to health. Medway has two sites that currently do so, but equipment to monitor this is expensive. The introduction of more affordable black carbon monitoring equipment, the data from which can be used as a proxy for PM2.5, may add greater detail to Medway's air monitoring. To have sufficient detail to assess the health impact of air pollution in Medway, and make the case for evidence based measures to be implemented, it is important that PM2.5 is modelled in a range of locations.

There is arguably insufficient awareness across Medway of the impact of air pollution on the public's health. A balance needs to be struck between educating and informing the public to achieve behaviour change (in terms of use of motorised vehicles) and adaptive action by those most at risk, and unnecessarily causing concern to vulnerable groups. The role of GPs and environmental health officers in developing and delivering these strategies is important.

To ensure an integrated approach to air pollution, public health needs to work closely and collaboratively with colleagues in environmental health, planning and transport. The air quality, and by extension health implications of travel (including active travel) and planning developments should be discussed with relevant colleagues in public health and environmental health before plans are approved and implemented. Similarly, public health can add value to active travel strategies, town planning decisions, and green space developments.