Background: it is increasingly recognized that the health of the environment and human health and well-being are inextricably linked. The linkages between the health of the ocean and human health are numerous and varied: from the impact of marine nutrients on healthy diets, to the impact of anthropogenic pollutants and pharmaceuticals in the environment. Understanding these links requires health concerns to permeate environmental policy, and for the role of the marine environment to be considered in health agendas.
Objectives: to undertake a systematic evidence map of the research linking oceans and human health undertaken in Europe.
Methods: in consultation with experts from public health and environmental science, we developed a conceptual understanding of the key linkages between the ocean and human health. We used this to inform a broad search strategy in a range of environmental and health databases. The hits were double screened in two stages against predefined inclusion criteria. We published a protocol in CADIMA (a free web tool that facilitates the conduct and documentation of systematic reviews, systematic maps and further literature reviews).
Results: the searches returned 14,678 hits of which over 1000 met the inclusion criteria for the map. We extracted key data on the nature of the research, the ocean-relevant activity or intervention and human health or well-being outcome(s) measured. We used this information to develop a searchable database of existing research, and to produce a series of matrices which illustrate the linkages that have been researched and where there are evidence gaps. This can be filtered by various variables, such as location, to create bespoke user information.
The resulting evidence map has identified key evidence gaps – where research is needed – and gluts – where systematic reviews will be able to inform policy.
Conclusions: while elsewhere, notably in the USA, oceans and human health is a recognized field of study, it is underdeveloped in Europe, with gaps showing little research in some key topics (for example marine plastics and human health). It is hoped that this map will help to inform a European research agenda, and highlight the need for targeted research.
Patient or healthcare consumer involvement: we plan to involve our standing public engagement group HEPE (the Health and Environment Public Engagement group) by asking how they would prioritize research to fill identified gaps, and identifying which of the areas in which there is existing research we should pursue to full systematic review.