The UK-based Wellcome Trust has announced the launch of a £10 million ($13.9 million) research initiative aimed at understanding how data can be used to transform cities into places that more equitably support healthier lives while also protecting the environment.
Part of the trust's Our Planet, Our Health program, the initiative comprises two urban health projects through which researchers, working closely with officials in ten cities, will gather local data and use computer modeling to test a variety of policy solutions to gauge their chances of success. Cities participating in the initiative include London (England), Rennes (France), Beijing and Ningbo (China), Nairobi and Kisumu (Kenya), Dhaka (Bangladesh), Vancouver (Canada), and Accra and Tamale (Ghana).
By 2050, 70 percent of the world's population is expected to live in cities, up from 50 percent today. Although people in cities on average are healthier than people who live in rural areas, due in large part to the concentration of economic activity and public services in urban areas, services are likely to become stretched as more people are exposed to city life, with the urban poor suffering most as a result.
The new projects join four other projects announced by the trust in 2017 focused on identifying and addressing challenges in the areas of urban health and food systems. All six projects eventually will be brought together under the aegis of the London Hub for Urban Health, Sustainability and Equality, creating one of the world's leading research centers in the field.
"To date no city has succeeded in implementing a pathway of development that is consistently and demonstrably on track to deliver long-term environment and health goals that fulfill both local needs and the increasingly urgent imperatives for planetary health," said Mike Davies, professor of building physics and environment at University College London and one of the co-directors of the initiative. "In this program, we aim to develop system-wide understanding of how those challenges can be addressed through development and implementation of evidence-informed solutions."
(Photo credit: Deb Roussea)