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The Salud Urbana en América Latina (SALURBAL) Project Team Advances from Data to Works-in-Progress with its Fourth Biannual Meeting in Oaxaca, Mexico

Group photo of SALURBAL project team

November 27, 2018

Earlier this month, more than fifty Salud Urbana en América Latina (SALURBAL) team members met in Oaxaca, Mexico for the project’s fourth biannual meeting. SALURBAL, an interdisciplinary and multinational project funded by the Wellcome Trust that aims to generate knowledge on drivers of urban health and sustainability in cities across Latin America, was launched in April 2017 and has since been growing across its seven country hubs and ten institutions. The biannual meetings are a unique opportunity for all collaborators who meet frequently online to discuss updates, progress, and feedback in-person and with the project as a whole.

Previous meetings consisted largely of updates from the data team as it worked to build a platform suited for multisite collaborative and comparative studies at multiple city levels. In contrast, this meeting marked a watershed for the presentation of the first project studies using the data platform, some of which are described below. SALURBAL data spans areas of mortality, health outcomes, physical environments, and social environments, linked to cities and smaller units when available. With this data, SALURBAL researchers are working to answer many questions related to how the social and physical characteristics of urban environments relate to health and health inequalities.  On the meeting’s first day, the data team facilitated a roundtable, which enabled project members to learn about, ask questions, and discuss possibilities for methods and applications of the data.

In addition to smaller sessions of the project’s area-specific resource cores and working groups, the remainder of the meeting concentrated on Works-in-Progress updates from ongoing SALURBAL studies and ancillary policy evaluation studies. Studies presented covered the burden of air pollution in Latin American cities and its effects on life expectancy, potential drivers of infant mortality, the relationship between features of urban environments and hypertension and diabetes, and factors contributing to self-related health and quality of life among residents of informal settlements. The policy evaluations presented corresponded to city-level policies and interventions relevant to urban health, including projects focused on Mexico City’s EcoBici bikeshare and Visión Cero road safety strategy, respectively, as well as a public housing renewal program in Santiago. These studies will help to provide insights into the different characteristics of urban environments that are linked to health, along with the types of interventions in urban settings that can improve health.

Some of the studies presented have been in the making since the early stages of the SALURBAL project, so the chance to see preliminary results provided an exciting glimpse of SALURBAL’s potential to inform policies and other efforts in the region with its findings. The group feedback, discussions, and data roundtable during the meeting will guide the project’s research approaches even further as well as give rise to new questions relevant to urban health in Latin American cities. Later in the week, SALURBAL held its first Knowledge-to-Policy Forum at the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean in Mexico City with representatives from municipal governments, NGOs, and regional organizations. Thus, in the coming months, SALURBAL will work to align its research objectives with regional priorities and plan continued dissemination to key audiences.

The next biannual meeting will be held in Belo Horizonte, Brazil in May 2019, hosted by the SALURBAL team at the Federal University of Minas Gerais. Keep checking our website for updates on upcoming events and opportunities.