In the Anthropocene age, human activity will determine the course of the planet, and most of this activity will occur in cities. Public health concerns formed the foundation urban planning. In the 21st century, the disciplines drifted apart, leaving a legacy of environments and exposures detrimental to people and the planet. Current global urbanization offers an unprecedented opportunity to rethink the way we design and live in cities. Including health transversally to reframe urban resilience is critical to achieve SDG11.
Methods: Health evidence often fails to reach those responsible for planning, and is poorly integrated into many urban platforms. In response, ISGlobal created the Urban Planning, Environment and Health Initiative (UPEH). UPEH offers an organizational model to generate impact in policy and society through research. Using Barcelona as a case study, we explore how evidence can be translated to promote healthy urban environments.
Results: The UPEH strategy works with government agencies in Barcelona to bridge gaps between theory and practice by: building technical capacity, creating transdisciplinary communities, engaging with urban and transport planning sector partners and translational events and media. Over the past two years, UPEH has developed collaborations with five government agencies. We are conducting health impact assessments of interventions such as the Superblock, evaluating local environmental exposures, offering trainings and creating tools to bring health criteria into urban and transport planning processes and policy (i.e. PMUs). Challenges identified include: aligning political and research cycles, breaking down silos, creating value for translational work within academia and understanding governance mechanisms and the influence of acquired rights such as private motorized transport.
Conclusions: Urban and transport planning are fundamental public health interventions. Health evidence can be used to create paradigm shifts and policy change. Novel approaches such as citizen science and health impact assessments are key to addressing challenges.