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The majority of people in the EU live in cities, and the rate of urbanisation is set to further increase.

Cities are places where people and communities live, work and play, and the quality of the urban
environment has a major impact on their health and well-being. However, people in cities are faced with many challenges including too much noise, e.g. from traffic, air pollution, e.g. from household wood burning, or lack of green spaces and unequal access to them. With accelerating climate change, urban heat islands have become a growing concern, with heat trapped between buildings and no chances for a cool off during the night.

In the past years, many city decision-makers have taken action to improve urban environments, moving away from an approach which prioritises cars and concrete. In these efforts to improve the quality of life in cities, policy-makers often look for expertise input, to assess if the designed measures will bring the intended (health) benefits.

A new EU funded research project, the Urban Burden of Disease Estimation for Policy Making (UBDPolicy), to which HEAL is a partner, aims to respond to this need by providing decision-makers with health impact assessments and socioeconomic costs and benefits analyses, for application in urban planning and design policies, including transport and environmental measures. Factors considered are air pollution, noise, temperature, natural spaces and physical activity, for nearly 1,000 cities in the EU. As part of the project, case studies for Barcelona, Basel, Brussels, Manchester, Munich, Sofia, Utrecht, Warsaw and Zagreb will be developed.

The project is coordinated by IS Global, and HEAL leads the work package on stakeholder consultation and knowledge translation, which includes consultations with different groups of actors, exchanging knowledge across cities and stakeholders, good practices, and publishing policy briefs and infographics for greater science-policy impact.

With cities’ stakeholders, we’re looking to design health promotion scenarios that would be of relevance for either preparation or assessment of current and prospective policies and strategies.

A recent gathering of city decision-makers confirmed this need for greater science to policy translation when it comes to health, as unfortunately the health dimension of challenges discussed – climate change, urban growth, and inequality was only brushed upon. The Brussels Brussel Urban Summit [#BUS2023] was an initiative of Brussels Capital Region, Eurocities, Metropolis and the OECD Champion Mayors for Inclusive Growth Initiative, and brought together mayors and city representatives from more than 600 cities.

There is definitely some way to go for cities to include health in (any) of the planning for the future!

Further information on cities activities:

EU’s Mission “100 Climate-Neutral and Smart Cities by 2030”

Priorities of the Mayors of Eurocities, the network of more than 200 cities in 38 countries:
C40 cities – a global network of nearly 100 mayors of the world’s leading cities: Champion Mayors
OECD Champion Mayors

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