The 15th International Conference on Urban Health took place on 26-30 November on the topic of “Managing Urbanisation for Health: A priority for all nations.” The conference was organized by the International Society for Urban Health, with the support of the International Science Council’s Urban Health programme, as well as Botnar Foundation, Wellcome Trust, and Novartis Foundation.
ICUH 2018 provided an opportunity for practitioners, academics, communities and policymakers from all levels to share knowledge and learning from around the world to help stimulate effective management of our urban areas for health and health equity.
The International Science Council’s Urban Health and Wellbeing Programme organized a panel on “Urban Health Models” where the panel discussed the complex nature of urban health challenges in different regions of the world, and the opportunities to address them through different models and approaches.
The conference as a whole recognized that Urban health challenges are often linked to complex causalities beyond direct control, including climate change, immigration, and demographic, epidemiological, and ecological changes. Thus there is a need for intelligent “science-policy” decision-making processes and simple and cost-effective tools to guide urban decision makers towards interventions that produce co-benefits and improve health and wellbeing. Such decision-making processes are political since they involve and engage stakeholders’ values and viewpoints; and they are scientific, in that they are evidence-based and apply systems approaches that are transparent and coherent.
The ISC took part in a panel organized by UN-Habitat on “Health Considerations in Policy and Planning for Urban and Territorial Development.” The panel speakers highlighted the interlinkages between Health and Urban and Territorial Development from the perspective of urban development, public health, research and academia, and practice — and outlined mechanisms and strategies required to effectively address health considerations in urban planning and policy-making.
Action for urban health must come at a high level to go to scale, these efforts must still be accompanied by a parallel strategy of multi-sector multi-level interventions. As stated during UN-Habitat’s pre-formed panel session, “policy is not what is interesting on the ground.” Moreover, urban health is a topic relevant for numerous disciplines and impacted by nearly all sectors. Therefore, action needs to be led by teams of diverse expertise in order to develop more tangible interventions and to ensure that these cover all the variables defining urban health.
Together with the International Society of Urban Health, the ISC launched the Africa Working Group for Urban Health. The group, consisting of researchers and practitioners in the field od urbanisation and health (together with several LIRA grantees), seeks to build critical mass of urban health researchers and practice In Africa, with the aim to promote an “Africa-first” approach to urban health issues.
The working group will be a place to connect, share and advocate with policy, civil society and funding agencies on topics related to urban health on the continent. To find more information on the working group, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
ICUH 2018 also saw the launch of the World Health Organization’s “Housing and Health” guidelines. Following the requests from a number of Member States and recognizing the increasing importance of housing to health due to demographic and climate changes, WHO has developed the first guidelines on housing and health. The WHO Housing and health guidelines provide global, evidence-based recommendations on how to improve housing conditions.
The next ICUH conference will be held in Xiamen, China, in November 2019, hosted by the ISC Urban Health and Wellbeing Programme and the Chinese Academy of Science.