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International Presentation Award (IPA) Reflection – Nishi Dsouza

December 9, 2021

In October of 2021, I was honored to discuss my dissertation research at an oral presentation session entitled "Citizen perspectives on urban health" at the 5th Healthy City Design (HCD) International Congress. The HCD Congress brought together scholars and practitioners around a single topic: urban health. The focus of the Congress was broad: fields such as urban planning, social work, public health, economics, and environmental studies were represented at the conference, enabling and inspiring significant cross-sector collaboration, and action.

Exploring Livability

My research portfolio centers around examining and promoting livable policies, systems, and environments for minoritized populations. Livability, a concept I am deeply passionate about, is defined as the ability of a place to meet human needs, provide opportunities for cultural or artistic expression, and foster a general sense of community.  At the HCD Congress, I presented some of the results of my dissertation research: the creation and validation of a measure of livability in the state of Connecticut and assessing how livability is associated with health outcomes. One of the major findings from my analysis was that livability is a complex, multidimensional construct, measurable at the community scale. Specifically, I discussed results from an exploratory factor analysis of livability-related survey items in the DataHaven Community Wellbeing Survey that show that livability can be explained by a 3-factor model: 1) neighborhood safety and collective efficacy; 2) political and economic opportunities; and 3) built environment infrastructure. The three identified factors are well aligned with what we anecdotally know about what constitutes a livable neighborhood. One of the reactions to the information I presented was that the findings were novel and intuitive, but not immediately obvious, with important implications for advocacy for greater livability among historically underserved populations.

One of the highlights of attending the HCD Congress was networking with academic researchers and applied practitioners passionate about improving urban health. The oral presentation session was facilitated by Mario Bozzo, a leader in technological applications for urban policy solutions. The session also included presentation from Adam Hinds, co-founder of a research organization called LifeProven with the aim of improving health and wellbeing in residential properties and Dan Phillips, leader of the People & Places Studio of the Intelligent Mobility Design Centre at the School of Design at UK’s Royal College of Art. Despite the different sectors we represented, and the varying nature of our research activities, our findings were well aligned. I learned a great deal from the different perspectives shared, and our discussion was rich.

One of the major takeaways from the reflection in the oral presentation session was how rare it is that architects and designers rely on academic research, especially from fields such as public health, and the importance of bridging this translational gap. The HCD Congress was a rare opportunity, drawing together practitioners and academic researchers from different disciplines to inspire one another. I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to communicate my research findings to professionals in other disciplines and appreciated the feedback I received on my dissertation and future research interests. I am very grateful to the Office of Global Engagement for awarding me the International Presentation Award to attend the HCD Congress and their support for my professional development as a budding urban health researcher.



Nishi Dsouza is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Community Health and Prevention, advised by Dr. Ana Martinez-Donate. Connect with Nishi on LinkedIn or Twitter or reach her at