UrbanBetter Cityzens

Citizen scientists for planetary health.

Our vision: By 2030, all urban infrastructure projects in Africa will embed health and climate resilience principles in their design and implementation.

Africa’s population is young (median age 19.4 years) and rapidly urbanising. High rates of urban poverty and largely unplanned urban environments compromise wellbeing and are contributing to a rising burden of both infectious and non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Despite an urgent need for healthy urban environment to reverse this trajectory, the continent’s mostly unplanned urban development, coupled with unresponsive governance in growing cities, offer few opportunities for health creation and disease prevention, with most urban residents also experiencing environmental vulnerability.

These cities are dually characterised by rapidly growing informal settlements and increasing investment in new greenfield urban development initiatives, with a largely untapped opportunity to harness this rapid pace of change and the young population for sustainable urban health initiatives.

The built, natural and food environments, which include air quality, access to healthy safe public space, walkable streets and access to healthy foods are determinants of active living and healthy eating, important risk factors for NCDs.  But in Africa’s dynamic cities, there remains a disconnect between urban exposures and health, with inadequate methods to measure changes to these environments and, consequently, the impact of urban interventions on exposures that influence health. There is also a need for contextually relevant evidence and capacity to inform public and private decision making on urban infrastructure, development and planning for healthy sustainable cities.

We:

ASPIRE..

for an urban reality where access to health-enabling, climate-resilient environments in cities is the central guiding principle of all urban development.

INSPIRE..

through the use of participatory data on urban environments and health to inform activism, shape advocacy and guide prioritisation and accountability of the impact of urban infrastructure development on health.

CONSPIRE..

building a vibrant movement of citizen scientists across the African continent who are impatient for impact and relentlessly drive demand for healthy public spaces.

How do we do this?

The UrbanBetter Cityzens initiative aims to harness urban infrastructure and development for planetary health through the air we breathe, our spaces and places and the food we eat.

Progress

Follow us for updates on our current campaign: CITYZENS FOR CLEAN AIR at the intersection of physical activity, built environment and air pollution!

 

We are working to build the citizen sensing infrastructure needed to generate data stories that

  • augment and inform urban design for healthy climate resilient public spaces through evidence-informed activism and policy. 
  • support training of the next generation of transdisciplinary researchers using data generated by young people across the continent.

 

The Cityzens initiative is currently incubating in the UrbanBetter satellite studio at Innovation Africa @UP, a research investment platform that hosts and develops collaborative government-industry-university initiatives to address pan-African needs for sustainable development and economic growth.

We are actively seeking

  • Partners who finance or design urban infrastructure projects to commit to health generating principles.
  • Anchor funding and implementation partners for the 3 core elements of public space: air, built environment, food environment.

 

Get in touch to find out how you can support and contribute to this exciting innovative approach to making the urban better.

air pollution

The urban environment and leisure physical activity during the COVID-19 pandemic: a view from Lagos

In this commentary, we highlight five aspects of the ordinary – known interactions between urban environments and physical activity – that are amplified by the extraordinary – an unprecedented societal response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Using Lagos, Nigeria as a case study, we illustrate the possibility of re-thinking urban development and the potential for urban (re)form to address health inequalities in African megacities in the context of post-COVID-19 pandemic.

Other UrbanBetter projects you might be interested in…

Global Diet and Activity Research (GDAR)

The Global Diet and Activity Research Group and Network (GDAR) is funded through the NIHR Global Health Research initiative. The goal is to help prevent non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancers, in low and middle income countries (LMICs). 

Our work involves finding solutions that are affordable and created in partnership with local communities. GDAR builds on the expertise and knowledge of research in Cameroon, the Caribbean, Kenya, South Africa and the UK.

Integrating health into human settlements policy (LIRA study)

The LIRA study explores the knowledge, attitudes and practices of intersectoral collaboration between health and human settlements sectors among policymakers in Cape Town and Douala.

Using Cape Town, South Africa, and Douala, Cameroon, as case studies, this LIRA project (2018–2020), led by Tolullah Oni, seeks to develop a practical health and housing-integrated collaboration model that will improve urban policymaking and governance for the planning of African cities. 

UrbanBetter project outputs

Urban Health Governance -ISUH Africa Community of Practice webinar

Hosted by the Africa Community of Practice of the International Society for Urban Health, the webinar, centred around “Urban Health Governance”, is part of the Urban Health in Africa Webinar Series and will be held on 28th April 2022. The speakers will include actors from

urban planning & development

Integrating health in human settlements

Health through human settlements: Investigating policymakers’ perceptions of human settlement action for population health improvement in urban South Africa.

air pollution

The urban environment and leisure physical activity during the COVID-19 pandemic: a view from Lagos

In this commentary, we highlight five aspects of the ordinary – known interactions between urban environments and physical activity – that are amplified by the extraordinary – an unprecedented societal response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Using Lagos, Nigeria as a case study, we illustrate the possibility of re-thinking urban development and the potential for urban (re)form to address health inequalities in African megacities in the context of post-COVID-19 pandemic.

RICHE | Africa Workshop On Healthy Cities: Intersectoral Approaches To Non-Communicable Disease Prevention In Africa

The “Healthy Cities: Intersectoral approaches to non-communicable disease prevention in Africa” workshop presented the opportunity to collaboratively identify opportunities to promote health and wellbeing and prevent non-communicable diseases in African cities through investments that support active living and healthy diets.  Workshop participants were policy, civil

The LIRA project (2018–2020) team, led by Tolullah Oni
urban planning & development

Integrating health into human settlements policy (LIRA study)

Using Cape Town, South Africa, and Douala, Cameroon, as case studies, this LIRA project (2018–2020), led by Tolullah Oni, seeks to develop a practical health and housing-integrated collaboration model that will improve urban policymaking and governance for the planning of African cities. The project brings together academic and non-academic stakeholders representing a range of expertise: public health, health geography, urban planning, and demography. The project contributes to SDG 3 and SDG 11.

urban planning & development

A Systematised Review of the Health Impact of Urban Informal Settlements and Implications for Upgrading Interventions in South Africa, a Rapidly Urbanising Middle-Income Country

Informal settlements are becoming more entrenched within African cities as the urban population continues to grow. Characterised by poor housing conditions and inadequate services, informal settlements are associated with an increased risk of disease and ill-health. However, little is known about how informal settlement upgrading impacts health over time. A systematised literature review was conducted to explore existing evidence and knowledge gaps on the association between informal settlement characteristics and health and the impact of informal settlement upgrading on health, within South Africa, an upper-middle-income African country.