Impacts of Land Use on Health: Understanding Lanscape Nexus with Public Health

The University of Queensland

Land use around us is changing due to climate change, urbanisation, and the reduction in wild spaces. These changes have been occurring over the last few decades and are potentially influencing disease patterns in our communities.

The types of diseases we can expect to see in our populations in the future will vary according to the physical landscape that these populations inhabit. This will be true for both chronic and infectious diseases. For chronic diseases, exposure to greenspaces and the coastal environment appear to have positive effects on the reduction of the prevalence of chronic diseases linked to inflammatory pathways, especially in those in lower socioeconomic groups. At the same time, increased interaction between humans and wild spaces may increase the risk of zoonotic disease outbreaks via interaction with mammals, such as bats.

This project will examine how a changed landscape may alter the mix of diseases that could be expected in the future. Southeast Queensland is experiencing a rapid population growth phase and accompanied land use change. The period between 1920-2019 saw Southeast Queensland’s population increase by 766,000 people. Understanding population-based human diseases on account of observed cases at different residential areas with relevant characteristics such as age distribution, socioeconomic status, and level of environmental exposure is essential to provide better patient care and support.

Firstly, this program will identify where chronic disease is prevalent and its relationship to the landscape and socioeconomic status of the population residing in those areas. To determine this, a range of human health data, such as the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children, can be used. Once some of these relationships are established, we will examine how the health of populations can change with long term trends. This will include disease trends in areas undergoing rapid land use change.

Project members

A/Prof Nicholas Osborne

Theme Leader, Environmental Health Epidemiology