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Advancing Urban Health: A Partnership between the Big Cities Health Coalition and the Urban Health Collaborative

Night time scene of Philadelphia


The Dornsife School of Public Health (DSPH), through its Urban Health Collaborative (UHC), is partnering with the Big Cities Health Coalition (BCHC) to support the Coalition’s vision of healthy, more equitable cities through big city innovation and leadership. BCHC is a forum for the leaders of America’s largest metropolitan health departments to exchange strategies and jointly address issues to promote the health and safety of the 62 million people they serve. For the UHC, the partnership is an opportunity to advance its commitment to urban health research, training, and policy translation locally and globally, leveraging the School’s historic expertise in public health practice in urban settings.

Currently, the UHC is engaged in three projects with BCHC:

  1. Big Cities Health Coalition Needs Assessment and Urban Health Agenda
  2. Big Cities Health Indicators Data Platform
  3. Tracking Outcomes and Inequalities of the COVID-19 Pandemic across BCHC Cities (funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation)

Big Cities Health Coalition Needs Assessment and Urban Health Agenda

The UHC is supporting BCHC on building a national urban health agenda that reflects the public health needs, assets, and best practices of BCHC cities. This agenda will inform action, policy, and resource allocation over time, as well as elevate awareness of governmental public health’s role in addressing urban health issues.

In the first phase of this partnership, key informant interviews with health commissioners representing the BCHC cities and an electronic survey of other top health department officials were conducted to understand cross-cutting policy priorities, barriers, and interests. The cumulative findings from this strategic assessment will aid BCHC in developing a new strategic plan for their coalition that is driven by the goals and challenges of the nation’s largest city health departments. The strategic plan, in conjunction with the urban health agenda, will guide BCHC’s vision and future direction.

Currently, the UHC is working on a comprehensive literature review of upstream policies that address the social determinants of health and the effect that these policies have on various health outcomes. The UHC is collecting and translating evidence-based research to support BCHC members in developing effective health policy for their cities.

In addition to conducting the strategic assessment and the policy literature review, this partnership serves to support BCHC in developing materials, briefs, infographics and other deliverables, to meet ongoing needs of member cities.

Big Cities Health Indicators Data Platform

The UHC will redesign and manage the existing BCHI Data Platform to maximize value to the BCHC and be complementary to other sources of city data. The current platform includes data across more than 50 health, socio-economic, and demographic indicators across 11 categories in the United States. It provides a “snapshot” of health in 30 of the largest, most urban cities in the United States and allows for comparability of health indicators across BCHC member jurisdictions.

Drawing upon the expertise at the UHC, the data platform will be revamped to allow for standardization and analysis of city-level data to inform urban policies. The purpose of effective description, analysis, and dissemination of urban health data is to increase visibility and enable advocacy around BCHC health priorities. This harmonized data also provides opportunities for valuable benchmarking and policy evaluation in the future.

Visit the Data Platform

Findings from the Big Cities Health Inventory Data Platform Infographic

Tracking Outcomes and Inequalities of the COVID-19 Pandemic across BCHC Cities

The UHC, in coordination with BCHC and with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is also creating a data platform to track outcomes and inequalities of the COVID-19 Pandemic across BCHC cities. The UHC brings its expertise in health equity and the social determinants of health, neighborhoods and health, epidemiology, data and data analyses, and policy surveillance to the creation of this robust city-level data dashboard. The project will create a data platform that allows for timely comparisons of key COVID-19 indicators, as well as indicators of inequities in COVID-19 outcomes, across BCHC cities over time. The platform will support BCHC members and other cities in their understanding of and response to the COVID-19 epidemic as well as visualize the inequalities that COVID-19 has created and amplified. While other platforms exist at the state and county level, this platform will be at the city-level - allowing city health officials, policymakers, and other partners to analyze data within and across US big cities.

Visit the Dashboard

There is also a narrative brief that accompanies the COVID-19 Health Inequities in Cities dashboard that provides users with a summary of the project and includes details and instructions for users to best leverage the powerful data tools publicly available on the dashboard. You can view it here.


Project Team

Partnership Project Team

  • Jennifer Kolker, MPH (Co-PI)
  • Vaishnavi Vaidya, MPH (BCHC Partnership Project Manager)
  • Gabrielle Connor
  • BCHI Data Platform Project Team
  • Ana Diez Roux, MD, PhD, MPH (Co-PI)
  • Jennifer Kolker, MPH (Co-PI)
  • Katie Livengood, MPH (BCHC Indicators Project Manager)
  • Kari Moore, MS
  • Amy Auchincloss, PhD, MPH
  • Daniel Yaw, GISP
  • Katie Nelson, MPH, PhDc
  • Steve Melly, MS, MA

COVID-19 Dashboard Team

  • Ana Diez Roux, MD, PhD, MPH (Co-PI)
  • Jennifer Kolker, MPH (Co-PI)
  • Claire Slesinski, MSPH (COVID Dashboard Project Manager)
  • Sharrelle Barber, ScD, MPH
  • Usama Bilal, PhD, MPH, MD
  • Ran Li, MS
  • Heather Rollins, MS
  • Alyssa Furukawa


Big Cities Health Coalition
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation


Allison Gibson, MPH, MCP
Project Coordinator

Funding provided by the Big Cities Health Coalition, de Beaumont Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.