We focus on four complex health issues more prevalent in urban areas
With the Social Progress Imperative, we've developed the first neighbourhood level, health-focused social progress index of its kind.
With Wellcome Trust
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By 2050, nearly 70% of the world’s population will live in cities. In the UK, over four in five people already live in urban areas. And so, we believe an understanding of urban health is more relevant than ever.
Where we grow up, live, and work impacts how healthy we are. Living in urban areas, like inner-city London, carries distinct health challenges, many of which start early in life and are influenced by the wider determinants of health and wellbeing.
Through our work, we seek to understand the deep causes of these health issues and explore different ways of addressing them. We combine the best sources of data, robust evidence, lived experience and practical interventions.
We believe that by removing the obstacles to good health, we can make urban areas healthier places for everyone to live.
The health challenges in urban areas are distinct from those elsewhere. In cities, the best health outcomes exist alongside the worst. Comparing two adjoining neighbourhoods of Clapham in South London, for example, men in one area live in good health for an average of 12 years longer than those a few streets away. For women, the gap is 7 years.
The reasons for this are complex and sit at the intersection of urban diversity, the built environment and income inequalities. We spend our time exploring these intersections.
For example, if you are from a minority ethnic background you are more likely to live in an inner-city area. If you live in an inner-city area, regardless of ethnicity, you are also more likely to:
These intersections also lead to challenges for health equity. Not everyone in cities experiences health risks and assets equally, and often much of the burden falls on the most vulnerable groups.
Urban health is not just one sector’s responsibility. It goes much wider than the healthcare system and public health authorities. It includes urban planners, civic institutions, investors, employers and residents.
For a city to be healthy, it also needs to centre the voices of all urban communities. However, many existing processes – from public engagement to policy-making and planning – disproportionately exclude organisations that are led by people from minority or lower-income backgrounds.
Urban health is a developing discipline, with initiatives like the European Healthy Cities Network (WHO) pushing forward-thinking and action around cities and health. The Sustainable Development Goals (UN) have also shone a light on sustainable cities and the importance of urban health.
Trying to improve health in cities is a complex task which involves coordination across sectors, over time, with different areas of focus. In order to have the most impact, we focus on a few health issues that disproportionately impact people living in cities.
These issues are exemplars of types of urban health challenges. We think of them as coordination, exploration, innovation and targeting questions. As a portfolio they engage across the commercial, social, environmental, and digital determinants of health.
And while we focus on health issues prevalent in our inner-city place, our programmes also target global health problems. By focusing on global issues in a typical inner-city environment, we believe we can identify both specific insights as well as broader lessons for those acting on urban health elsewhere.
Our report explores how cities around the world are addressing health inequalities and shares their real-world solutions to pressing urban health issues.
Five pathways for cross-sector action on urban health equity
We've been working with the London School of Economics (LSE) and local residents to map what the next decade could look like for Lambeth and Southwark.