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Salud Urbana en América Latina (SALURBAL) project announces funding for ancillary studies

EcoBici bicycles at a docking station

July 10, 2018

Can a neighborhood regeneration program to improve housing quality, pave roads, and create parks also lead to a healthier community? Will nutrition warnings on junk food and sodas make consumers think twice before making unhealthy purchases? Will the expansion of bike lanes lead to more physical activity? Through ancillary studies funded by the Salud Urbana en América Latina (SALURBAL) project, we may soon be a step closer to answering these questions and more.

SALURBAL, which was made possible by a $12 million grant from the Wellcome Trust’s Our Planet, Our Health initiative, has been working to study how urban environments and policies can shape health and environmental sustainability in the cities of Latin America since its April 2017 launch. The five-year project led by Dornsife School of Public Health Dean and Urban Health Collaborative Director Ana Diez Roux, MD, PhD spans an interdisciplinary and multi-country team of 10 partner institutions in Latin America, three U.S. institutions: the United Nations University, and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.

One of the goals of the SALURBAL project is to determine the health impact of various urban policies and interventions. Policies in the four areas of mobility and emissions control, comprehensive urban development, social inequalities, and the promotion of healthy behaviors are of particular interest to the project. Such policies could include the implementation of a new public transit system, the creation of city green spaces, or the establishment of taxes on unhealthy food. “We chose these areas because they are areas that can substantially impact health and in which the cities of Latin America have often been quite innovative in terms of policy initiatives,” noted Diez Roux, who is also the SALURBAL Principal Investigator.

One study set in Mexico City evaluates a government campaign that seeks to curb transit-related accidents and air pollution through new regulations. Another examines if a Peruvian law that mandates nutritional warning labels on processed foods and soft drinks is affecting food-related knowledge and preferences among children and adolescents. A third study explores a bike-share program in Mexico City to learn about participation, physical activity, and transit-related injuries. Two other studies in Brazil and Chile assess the health impacts of comprehensive development interventions in poor neighborhoods that combine strategies such as community participation and social and legal support with structural improvements to housing and the physical environment.

Through these projects, the SALURBAL team will learn about what interventions and policies work to improve health in cities. This knowledge will be relevant to cities across the globe.

In addition to policy evaluations, the SALURBAL team has been compiling a unique data resource on health and health determinants across over 300 cities in the region. Analyses of this database will identify what factors are associated with better health and lower health inequities in cities. The project is also engaging with policymakers and other key stakeholders throughout the region in order to inform its research questions and translate evidence into policies.

Funded studies and their institutions include:

  • “Evaluation of new road traffic regulations, specifically speed limits, on crashes, fatalities and air pollution in Mexico City.” Carolina Pérez Ferrer, PhD, Centro de Investigación en Salud Poblacional, Instituto Nacional de Salud Pública, México.
  • “Measuring the Impact on well-being and health of dwelling and environmental regeneration in Chile.” Alejandra Vives Vergara, MD, MPH, PhD, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Chile.
  • “Health Impact Evaluation of Vila Viva Project in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.” Amélia Augusta de Lima Friche, PhD Observatory for Urban Health in Belo Horizonte, Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil
  • “Evaluating the Implementation and Effects of Warning Advertising in Food Labels in Peru: A Mixed-methods Study.” Francisco Diez-Canseco, MPH, CRONICAS Centre of Excellence in Chronic Diseases at Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, Peru
  • “Effect of a large-scale, public bicycle-sharing program on urban health: A natural experiment in Mexico City.” Alejandra Jáuregui, DS(c), Department of Physical Activity and Healthy Lifestyles, Centro de Investigación en Nutrición y Salud, Instituto Nacional de Salud Pública, México.