UNU-IIGH contributes to major research effort on urban health in Latin America

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  • 2018•06•21     Kuala Lumpur

    Latin America today is more than 80% urban, having reached that level over a much shorter time-frame and with less resources than the comparably developed regions of North America, Europe and Australia. As such, its cities are living laboratories for urban innovation, often with significant consequences for health—many now-ubiquitous urban interventions, like Bus Rapid Transit systems and Open Streets initiatives, originated in the region. At the same time, Latin American cities are in many ways unique in terms of the health challenges they face – for example, the region includes 19 of the world’s 30 most unequal cities, and 43 of the 50 with the highest rates of homicide.

    In 2015, UNU-IIGH began work on an effort to tackle these and other health-relevant urban issues, co-founding the Urban Health Network for Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC-Urban Health). The network, which aims to foster improved understanding, communication and exchange among researchers and policy-makers across the region, is housed at the Drexel University Dornsife School of Public Health and is also co-sponsored by the United Nations’ Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). To achieve its goals, a consortium arising from LAC-Urban Health conceived the Salud Urbana en América Latina (SALURBAL) project, which in 2017 was funded by the Wellcome Trust through its novel Our Planet Our Health initiative. Featuring a large, multi-country interdisciplinary team spanning 16 institutions and 7 countries across Latin America—in addition to three U.S. academic partners, ECLAC, and UNU-IIGH—SALURBAL has four aims:

    • To quantify the contributions of city and neighborhood-level factors to differences in levels of health and health inequalities among and within cities.
    • To evaluate the health and environmental impact of city and neighborhood-level policies/interventions by capitalizing on natural experiments and by combining quantitative and qualitative approaches.
    • To employ systems thinking and formal simulation models in order to (1) better understand the dynamic relations between the urban environment, health, and environmental sustainability; and (2) identify the plausible impacts of selected policies under varying conditions and dynamic relations.
    • To engage with the scientific community, the public, and policy makers in order to disseminate findings and translate them into policies and interventions.

    A new article (https://rdcu.be/0ZGR) in the Global Challenges journal explores the origins and characteristics of this transformative research collaboration, highlighting progress to date and lessons learned, and pointing toward a more collaborative future to benefit urban health in Latin America and across the world.