Review of the Urban Health and Wellbeing Programme: Executive Summary

This is the mid-term formative review of the Urban Health and Wellbeing Programme. It is intended to inform the next phase of this ten-year programme.

Smog in Shanghai

Executive Summary

This report documents the independent mid-term formative review of the International Science Council (ISC)[1] programme of work entitled “Urban Health and Wellbeing: A Systems Approach”. This programme, established in 2014, is currently co-sponsored by the United Nations University International Institute of Global Health (UNU-IIGH) and the InterAcademy Partnership (IAP), with significant financial support from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) in Xiamen, China.

As the review is intended to inform the next phase of this ten-year programme, the review panel purposefully focused its work on identifying critical areas for growth and direction.

Key findings

  • The review panel’s overall assessment is that the International Programme Office (IPO) has developed an ambitious ‘science plan’ and an impressive steering committee, as well as local hosts.
  • In the first three or so years, the IPO has experienced several challenges in meeting its goals and objectives as set out in the plan. These challenges, expected with any new IPO, range from issues related to language and staffing to clarity of expectations. The review panel is of the opinion that the core idea for the programme – to produce policy-relevant research – was ambitious, and that given limited resources, it requires careful re-thinking on how to go forward. The plan for the coordination of research projects has not been realized.


In the considered opinion of the review panel, the programme is not on course to achieve the objectives as stated in the original science plan. As logical next steps, the review panel recommends that:

  • The leadership of the IPO should work in partnership with the CAS and the steering committee to revise the science plan in order to render goals and objectives relevant, feasible and attainable.
  • The IPO is strongly encouraged to establish a logic model and/or metrics of measurement (e.g. key performance indicators) that would serve both as a rudder for day-to-day operations and as a framework for evaluation.

The review panel also strongly believes that the programme possesses sufficient strength to enable scaled-down, targeted impact in its next and final phase, once appropriate staffing measures have been implemented.

[1] The International Science Council (ISC) was formed in 2018 following a merger of the International Council for Science (ICSU) and the International Social Science Council (ISSC). This report was prepared before the merger; where relevant, names have been updated to reflect that the ISC is a co-sponsor of the programme with effect from July 2018.

Photo: Lim Eng on Unsplash.


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