The First SALURBAL Knowledge-to-Policy Forum Focuses on the Translation of Scientific Evidence into Policies Relevant to Urban Health
November 28, 2018
In 2015, a group of researchers and other professionals associated with universities, practice organizations and agencies within the United Nations system came together to form the Urban Health Network for Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC-Urban Health). In doing so, network members sought to foster collaborations to support scientific research, training, and the translation of knowledge into policies relevant to urban health. Many began to think about ways in which a collaborative project spanning various countries in Latin America could offer an opportunity for comparative study to learn from the enormous diversity in the region. After receiving a grant from the Wellcome Trust’s “Our Planet, Our Health” program that made this possible, the Salud Urbana en América Latina (SALURBAL) project was officially launched in April 2017.
From the beginning, the SALURBAL Project, which studies to what extent urban environments and policies influence health and environmental sustainability in Latin American cities, was developed to integrate innovative methods to facilitate the dissemination of scientific findings to key audiences. One of these approaches is a series of “Knowledge-to-Policy” fora, participatory events based on exchange between SALURBAL researchers and invited regional participants. This past week, the first forum took place at the headquarters of the Economic Commission for Latin American and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in Mexico City, bringing the efforts of over one year of planning to fruition.
Over the two-day event, SALURBAL project members from the United Nations University-International Institute for Global Health, facilitated the forum’s program, which guided SALURBAL researchers and external participants in activities focused on dialogue and group reflection. Participant backgrounds represented the spectrum of the many sectors and types of organizations for whose work urban health issues are relevant. For example, attendees included representatives from municipal governments, health secretariats, and NGOs and community-based organizations. Organizations known to be leaders in urban health and sustainability such as PAHO, ECLAC, C40 Cities, World Resources Institute, Cities Alliance, and Techo were also represented, contributing to the diversity of participants.
In addition to providing a space for conversation and connections, the event was an opportunity for the project to receive feedback, comments, and other suggestions to inform its objectives and research questions moving forward. As one of SALURBAL’s ultimate goals is to propose and inform the design of policies and interventions, aligning its research in response to the demand and current landscape of the region is essential. Researchers from the project presented an overview of SALURBAL and shared a fact sheet of the project’s database that covers 371 cities. The conversations that followed concentrated on increasing the project’s utility and overcoming barriers to the use of scientific knowledge in urban health policymaking processes.
By the end of the forum, researchers and invited participants identified concrete actions and next steps to strengthen the translation of scientific knowledge. In the coming months, the SALURBAL team will produce a document summarizing and highlighting main outcomes from the forum and will conduct several follow-ups to explore new collaboration opportunities. As the project approaches its third year, the forum will serve as an important reference point to better contextualize the project and integrate scientific evidence with practice.