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A Novel International Partnership for Actionable Evidence on Urban Health in Latin America: LAC-Urban Health and SALURBAL

This article describes the origins and characteristics of an interdisciplinary multinational collaboration aimed at promoting and disseminating actionable evidence on the drivers of health in cities in Latin America and the Caribbean: The Network for Urban Health in Latin America and the Caribbean and the Wellcome Trust funded SALURBAL (Salud Urbana en América Latina, or Urban Health in Latin America) Project. Both initiatives have the goals of supporting urban policies that promote health and health equity in cities of the region while at the same time generating generalizable knowledge for urban areas across the globe. The processes, challenges, as well as the lessons learned to date in launching and implementing these collaborations, are described. By leveraging the unique features of the Latin American region (one of the most urbanized areas of the world with some of the most innovative urban policies), the aim is to produce generalizable knowledge about the links between urbanization, health, and environments and to identify effective ways to organize, design, and govern cities to improve health, reduce health inequalities, and maximize environmental sustainability in cities all over the world.


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Cover page of the data brief

Data in the SALURBAL Project 

Data in the SALURBAL Project provides an overview of the process of selecting cities, compiling data, and the types of questions the dataset may help to answer. The document was developed to inform future SALURBAL studies and to receive feedback from stakeholder working in urban health in the region regarding how SALURBAL research can support their efforts.


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Building a Data Platform for Cross-Country Urban Health Studies: the SALURBAL Study

Studies examining urban health and the environment must ensure comparability of measures across cities and countries. We describe a data platform and process that integrates health outcomes together with physical and social environment data to examine multilevel aspects of health across cities in 11 Latin American countries. We used two complementary sources to identify cities with ≥ 100,000 inhabitants as of 2010 in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, and Peru. We defined cities in three ways: administratively, quantitatively from satellite imagery, and based on country-defined metropolitan areas. In addition to "cities," we identified sub-city units and smaller neighborhoods within them using census hierarchies. Selected physical environment (e.g., urban form, air pollution and transport) and social environment (e.g., income, education, safety) data were compiled for cities, sub-city units, and neighborhoods whenever possible using a range of sources. Harmonized mortality and health survey data were linked to city and sub-city units. Finer georeferencing is underway. We identified 371 cities and 1436 sub-city units in the 11 countries. The median city population was 234,553 inhabitants (IQR 141,942; 500,398). The systematic organization of cities, the initial task of this platform, was accomplished and further ongoing developments include the harmonization of mortality and survey measures using available sources for between country comparisons. A range of physical and social environment indicators can be created using available data. The flexible multilevel data structure accommodates heterogeneity in the data available and allows for varied multilevel research questions related to the associations of physical and social environment variables with variability in health outcomes within and across cities. The creation of such data platforms holds great promise to support researching with greater granularity the field of urban health in Latin America as well as serving as a resource for the evaluation of policies oriented to improve the health and environmental sustainability of cities.


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Cover image of Food and Urban Health brief

Food and Urban Health 

Food and Urban Health: Lessons from Latin America presents leading challenges in urban nutrition in the context of demographic changes, poverty, and markets and regulations. The policy brief describes mechanisms that can be implemented to affect food-related behaviors and consumption, and highlights innovative policies, laws, and programs from the region. Recommendations build upon best regional practices and suggest integrated and intersectoral responses.


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Sustainable Transport and Urban Health 

Sustainable Transport and Urban Health: Lessons from Latin American Cities explores strategies and interventions from throughout the region that support active transport and mobility in cities. The policy brief gives an overview of the key areas of transportation policies, regional trends, case studies of policies in major cities, and discusses the contributions of Latin America to global efforts in urban policies and health. 


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