Dr. Ana V. Diez Roux, dean of the Drexel University Dornsife School of Public Health, joined other members of the Salud Urbana en America Latina (SALURBAL) project team and the Urban Health Network for Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC-Urban Health) in Lima, Peru, in November, to advance the work of the SALURBAL project. The 12-member Drexel SALURBAL research team is working in partnership with 15 organizations from around the world to study how urban environments and policies impact the health of city residents throughout Latin America.
The three-day event brought together urban health researchers and practitioners from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Peru, and the United States. Team members reported on plans to advance policy outreach, including a strategy to communicate research findings as actionable knowledge. They also discussed how SALURBAL’s objectives can connect to global, regional, and national urban health agendas through participation in key events, such as the World Urban Forum in February 2018.
Meeting participants shared plans for the evaluation of urban redevelopment and housing interventions in Buenos Aires, Santiago, Belo Horizonte, and the TransMicable public transportation system in Bogota. Through these evaluations, SALURBAL is building relationships with local governments and regional development banks to capitalize on surveillance data and to improve the eventual translation of findings into regional and global urban policy.
SALURBAL’s systems group also held their first workshop with eight regional transportation experts and nine food system experts. The resulting mapping and model building revealed insights into the dynamic and interrelated factors in urban environments that may inform policy.
Key variables for the preliminary food model included regulation, political consensus, industry lobbying, prices, economic interests, advertisement, obesity prevalence, physical activity, community interests, eating norms, availably of healthy vs. unhealthy foods, dietary guidelines, and education. For the transportation model, variables focused on stress, social exclusion, road hazards, automobile usage, traffic, roads and infrastructure, access to health services, travel time, government measures, and pollution.
Partners from the Economic Commission for Latin America, the World Bank, United Nations University, and the Brookings Institution, who help lead SALURBAL’s engagement with wider audiences, including policymakers and civil society, were also in attendance, as well as local public health experts.
Launched in April 2017, the five-year SALURBAL project is supported by a $12 million Wellcome Trust Our Planet, Our Health initiative grant given to Drexel’s Dornsife School of Public Health. The work is based at Dornsife’s Urban Health Collaborative. Since the start of the project, researchers have made great progress toward gathering the data needed to answer critical research questions. Plans are also underway to generate mortality profiles for Latin American cities to provide insights into how urban environments contribute to deaths from a range of causes.
SALURBAL’s 2018 phase will be launched from Guatemala City in May 2018.