Roundtable on urban living environment research (RULER)

In 2008, for the first time in history, half of the world’s population lived in urban areas. While this milestone includes both developed and developing countries, by 2020, urban will become the predominant mode of living in the developing world. Although considerable attention has been, and should be, focused on addressing poverty and health in rural settings, cities are increasingly where people live, where economic livelihood supports rural counterparts, and where density can make population health efforts more efficient. Especially as poverty—which is inextricably linked with poorer health outcomes—becomes more urbanised, the complex array of forces and challenges that impact population health needs to be recognised, acknowledged, and addressed to make urban settings livable.

Key findings presented in the paper include: urban settings are a priority area of focus as they are the platform on which the 21st century megatrends are played out; the urban setting is a determinant of health; disaggregation of local data is absolutely necessary to uncover and address health inequities; some data are already available in low-resource settings to generate disaggregated data at the intra-urban level, but obstacles to their use exist; affordable innovative technologies are becoming available to supplement existing efforts at disaggregating data; analytic strategies that make more variables interpretable at a disaggregated level continue to be developed; missing indicators – unrepresented or underdeveloped variables require attention to more completely depict the urban environment; improving urban health metrics requires acknowledging and addressing the politicisation of data; and there exist internationally recognised platforms that can address these technical and political challenges and build on these opportunities.

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