The LIRA project (2018–2020) team, led by Tolullah Oni

Integrating health into human settlements policy (LIRA study)

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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.


The research is conducted in two phases. Phase one explores existing policies and governance structures in Cape Town and Douala through desktop research and in-depth interviews with government officials. The aim is to identify synergies, shared benefits and collaboration opportunities between government bodies and policies in housing and health. Using stakeholder engagement, phase two works with policy partners to investigate approaches to integrating quantitative data across government sectors to inform future evaluation of the health impact of housing interventions for the urban poor in Cape Town and Douala. The engagement process is documented in an article which is currently under review.

The emerging results so far point to an overall willingness for and interest in collaboration between these sectors. However, collaboration is hampered by narrow perceptions of the definition of health and housing and by the roles and responsibilities of the relevant sectors; and by siloed mandates that do not align performance indicators with aspirations of intersectoral collaboration for health and wellbeing.

The concept for this LIRA project was developed through consultative workshops in Cape Town and Douala with researchers across different disciplines and senior policy representatives from a wide range of government departments (including health, education, environmental affairs, human settlements and public works). 

Outputs to date

Following these workshops, a policy position paper calling for bolder action on health in Africa was developed and shared with delegates at the Second WHO Africa Health Forum to influence policy discussion. Furthermore, the project developed recommendations for action to break down non-communicable disease silos in Africa. The project is also partnering with the World Health Organization Regional Office for Africa to develop training tools for intersectoral action for health that will be used by the WHO Healthy Cities Initiative.

To date, the following knowledge products have been developed by the project:

  • Oni T, Mogo E, Ahmed A, et al., (2019). Breaking down the silos of Universal Health Coverage: towards systems for the primary prevention of non- communicable diseases in Africa. BMJ Global Health 2019;4:e001717 (
  • Oni T, Kockat J, et al., (2019). The healthcare community needs to champion healthy and sustainable urban living spaces. BMJ June 2019.
  • Weimann A and Oni T, (2019). 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. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(19), 3608.
  • J Vearey, I Luginaah, NF Magitta, DJ Shilla, T Oni. Urban Health in Africa:
    a critical global health priority. BMC Public Health. 2019 Mar 25;19(1): 340.
  • Ebikeme C, Gatzweiler F, Oni T, Liu J, Oyuela A, Siri J. Xiamen Call for Action: Building the Brain of the City-Universal Principles of Urban Health. Journal of Urban Health. 2019;96(4): 507–50.
  • Read Project blog

Partners: University of Yaounde 1, University of Cape Town, Douala city council (Cameroon),  Western Cape Government Department of Human Settlements, Western Cape Government Department of Health, Research Initiative for Cities Health and Equity (RICHE), University of Cape Town.

Funder: Swedish International Development Agency/International Science Council 

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