Dr Audrey de Nazelle
Five minutes with Dr Audrey de Nazelle, Lecturer in Air Pollution Management, Centre for Environmental Policy
1. Tell us about your research in a nutshell.
My research focuses on the built environment and health and how we plan and build cities, streets and neighbourhoods that are health promoting."
My research focuses on the built environment and health and how we plan and build cities, streets and neighbourhoods that are health promoting. To do this I engage with cities and citizens from lots of different perspectives: from investigating air pollution levels; to social engagement practices; to planning practices that promote healthy lifestyles; to people's motivations and the health impacts of their choices.
I look at both the determinants of citizens' behaviours and the impacts of these behaviours because what's interesting to me is seeing how the two fit together. I am trying to create a holistic framework to help make the case for health-promoting neighbourhoods and streets in cities. I work mostly with policy makers and the infrastructure and transport stakeholders of cities.
2. What impact could your research have for our industry partners?
There are huge opportunities in the industrial world to develop sensors that are wearable and affordable so that citizens engage more with the reality of their environments. "
There are two strands to my research that are interesting for an industrial audience: the development and testing of technology and the advocacy of health-promoting infrastructure.
Technology is an important connector between citizens on the ground, researchers like me, companies trying to build solutions and government. There are huge opportunities in the industrial world to develop sensors that are wearable and affordable so that citizens engage more with the reality of their environments. This also enables us - researchers - to get a more accurate picture of these environments and propose changes accordingly.
I use sensors and phone apps a lot in my work. I want to see if we can motivate people to positively change their behaviours and attitudes by allowing them to engage more with their local environments. For example, I recently worked with Plume Labs, who have developed an air-pollution sensor and app, to see how this connection plays out in real life. It turns out people were much less persuadable than you might have thought...but there is plenty of room to improve on communicating about air pollution, and the implications are clear for transport and infrastructure planners. If you make it easier for people to choose healthy options - say by pointing out that a bicycle docking station is nearby and cheaper than a cab - they are more likely to take those options.
In the future I will spend a lot of time crunching data collected from sources like these apps so that we can make the case for city designs that have health at their core. In terms of advocacy my work’s typical audience are policy makers but it could be of interest to urban planners and utility and transport providers that want to put health and sustainability at the heart of their business strategies.
3. What's interesting you most about your field at the moment?
I began my career organising bicycle demonstrations in Paris and I’m still passionate about making an impact on the ground."
I think the most interesting research right now is trying to understand the impact of direct interventions. I began my career organising bicycle demonstrations in Paris and I’m still passionate about making an impact on the ground.
We’re at a stage where we have a lot of technology collecting a lot of data from all sorts of sources but it’s still difficult to determine the exact impact of policy interventions. It’s fascinating to analyse these big, cross-sectional data sets and try to make associations between different types of cities and planning and engagement processes. It’s so valuable to then be able to take that information and start designing natural experiments that can conclusively measure the impact of policy interventions.
These robust experiments will be the key pieces of evidence that persuade industrial and governmental decision makers to make important changes.
4. Who/what sectors would be interested in hearing more about your research?
- Data analytics companies
- Transport-related companies
- Infrastructure-related companies
- Digital technology sector, especially technology providers with a health or environment angle