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Dornsife School of Public Health Hosts Hundreds for Inaugural Symposium Exploring How to Improve Urban Health By Kimberly Menard, Director, Marketing and Communications
Dornsife School of Public Health

Dornsife School of Public Health hosted its inaugural symposium

On September 10-11, 2015, the Dornsife School of Public Health hosted its inaugural symposium, “Reimagining Health in Cities: New Directions in Urban Health Research and Action.” The event brought together researchers, practitioners, and policy makers from around the globe to energize action around urban health, generate novel research ideas, and stimulate debate on policy implications and future directions. Attendees heard from 29 speakers and 60 additional projects were featured in an evening poster session exhibiting work from urban health programs around the world.

Speakers and participants sparked a lively discussion on how public health researchers can impact practice and policy in urban settings. The symposium began with the health commissioners from Philadelphia-Dr. James Buehler, New York-Dr. Mary Bassett, and Baltimore-Dr. Leana Wen, joined by Dr. Mitchell Katz, Director of the Los Angeles County Dept. of Health Services, Dr. Carlos Santos-Burgoa from the Panamerican Health Organization and George Washington University provided an international perspective. Panelists discussed the major health challenges facing cities today including health disparities and homelessness, the critical role of places and neighborhoods, and the importance of multisectoral engagement, including engaging the health care system. All speakers highlighted the importance of partnerships and of building direct links between academic research and training and the world of public health practice and policy.

The need for cross-disciplinary collaboration was emphasized throughout the symposium as a way to confront complicated, interrelated issues to improve urban health. In two keynotes during the session on “Urban planning and public heath, where have we been and where are we going”, Dr. Howard Frumkin (University of Washington) and Dr. Daniel Rodriquez (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) discussed challenges ahead from the perspectives of public health and urban planning respectively. Frumkin empathized the importance of thinking about health broadly from a planning perspective and called for increasing interdisciplinary training programs. Rodriguez discussed recent trends in urban and transport planning and emphasized the importance of intervening in policy is during the implementation phase. After a policy is enacted, it can be carried out and enforced in a variety of ways. It is at this practical step in the process where insight from scientific experts can make all the difference. For example, the way traffic safety (including complete streets policies and bike share programs) and housing development policies are enforced can greatly affect their impact.

Participants left energized and excited about the possibilities and opportunities ahead in improving heath in cities worldwide through research, policy, and novel partnerships.