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An Environmentalist’s Climate Justice Activism Journey

#UrbanBetter #Disruptor Nyamrinda Obam is a nature lover, environmentalist and climate justice activist from Kenya. We asked him to tell us about how he got into climate justice activism and what motivates him. I  was born and raised in Siaya County in the western part

Health is Everyone’s Business

Health is everyone’s business. When we talk about health, we think about hospitals, clinics and diseases that people have. But the vast majority of the factors and exposures that influence health lie outside of the healthcare sector. So while we subconsciously feel and act as

Rethinking Urban Health

The concept of planetary boundaries was developed to capture the ecological limits within which humanity can live sustainably in the long term. Globally, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, four planetary boundaries have already been exceeded: land-use change (with urbanisation), climate change, biodiversity loss and

For Thought Summit On Building A Resilient, Innovative And Prosperous Future For All

“Put future generations at the heart of our institutional and systems decision-making”.  That’s the top recommendation that emerged from the For Thought summit, organised by the British Science Association and partners.  The summit convened diverse leaders from business, policy, science and civil society, including UrbanBetter’s

Why we need to make planetary health part of city design

Several of the goals set out in the African Union’s Agenda 2063 in effect fall under the umbrella of planetary health as they aim to transform the health and wellbeing of the continent and provide a framework for inclusive sustainable cities. We just need a roadmap and an action plan.

In this commentary, UrbanBetter founder – Prof Oni – sets out the importance of making planetary health part of city design in Africa and the critical role of youth, innovative financing and visionary public leadership.

Read the commentary below:

A Climate Activist’s Journey

#UrbanBetter Disruptor, Dorcas Wakio Mugo, is a Kenyan environmental and climate activist studying Marine Resource Management at the Technical University of Mombasa. We asked her to tell us about her personal journey into climate activism, what motivates her, and her advice for the current and

Ellyanne at Crater Lake, Naivasha National Park, Kenya

Africa’s Youngest Climate Change Ambassador’s Journey

#UrbanBetter Disruptor Ellyanne Chlystun-Githae Wanjiku is an 11-year-old environmentalist and Africa’s Youngest Climate Change Ambassador who is putting us all to shame. As Kenya’s Youngest Mashujaa (national hero), she started planting trees aged 4 and has planted over 1 million trees.  We spoke to Ellyanne

Combating Systemic Discrimination In Science

The Black Lives Matter protests in 2020 – related to the death of George Floyd – in the United States of America have shone a light on systemic racism globally. The events have brought into questions matters of discrimination in all facets of life, including

Tolullah Oni, the Principal of Oni et al and Founder of UrbanBetter

Commissioner, The Pathfinder Initiative

Using real-world case studies and robust scientific evidence, the Pathfinder Initiative aims to synthesise lessons and highlight gaps in implementing practical pathways to zero-carbon societies across diverse settings. Highlighting knowledge gaps and identifying these pathways will enable significant improvements to be achieved with minimal delay

Cities Can Champion Biodiversity Preservation For Planetary Health

As we celebrate the International Day for Biological Diversity on 22nd May, we need to remember that cities can and must be part of solutions to protect biodiversity. Indeed, the COVID- 19 pandemic has reminded us that we need more green and resilient cities that

Global Future Council on Clean Air Post

Council member, Global Future Council on Clean Air

The Global Future Council on Clean Air comprises experts from across mobility, health, energy and cities. The council will drive thought leadership and inform cutting-edge solutions; look for opportunities for innovating, shaping and scaling collective progress; and support the World Economic Forum in building a

How the power of youth can help fight air pollution across Africa | Photo by Seth Doyle on Unsplash

How the power of youth can help fight air pollution across Africa

Air pollution kills more people in Africa than unsafe drinking water or malnutrition.

In this commentary to commemorate the first ever United Nations (UN) International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies on 7 September 2020, UrbanBetter founder, Prof Oni sets out the importance of air quality for health and the threats to health posed by urban development processes that worsen air quality for the majority.

Read the commentary below:

Health Emergency of Climate Change

The first episode of the Royal Society of Medicine’s Health Emergency of Climate Change series, recorded in March 2021, focused on positioning health and well-being at the centre of the climate change discussion.  The Health Emergency of Climate Change series brought together leading healthcare experts

Designing for health | Photo by Reuben Hayfron on Unsplash

Designing for health:
with Monocle’s The Urbanist podcast

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of urban environments for health.  It’s surely irrational to ask people to be more physically active if walking or cycling is dangerous. So how can the barriers to healthy behaviours in the environment be taken down?  How can

Health-proofing Our Future; Future-proofing Our Planet

How do we integrate health in today’s urban settings? What does re-thinking health involve? At the Commonwealth Science Conference 2021, UrbanBetter’s Dr Tolullah Oni spoke about health-proofing our future and our planet. In the talk, urbanisation and health today is highlighted giving context for why

U.S. Congressional Briefing on Science Diplomacy

What are some of the critical lessons that policymakers can draw from how public health education can mitigate distrust in science? How might science diplomacy efforts operate at different scales of government to foster global cooperation? These were some of the questions discussed at a

#UrbanBetter countdown to #AfricaDay

Africa Day 2021 was the 25th May!​

We celebrated with a daily countdown from 01 May featuring work by individuals, organisations and governments in cities creating healthier, sustainable environments.

Catch up on all 24 featured cities across Africa making the #urbanbetter.

Sustainability for Whom?

Global sustainability cannot be realised without achieving sustainability for the most vulnerable and underrepresented communities. These are the low-income and middle-income countries, as well as those increasingly left behind in high-income countries. Yet the framing of sustainability, investment in innovation, and academic analysis has been

health foresight

Sustainable Design Webinar

The second webinar in the AfriSam-SAIA’s series on Sustainable Design, which took place in August 2020, featured UrbanBetter founder Dr. Tolullah Oni in conversation with Dr. Philippa Tumubweinee, Head of School at Architecture Planning & Geomatics, University of Cape Town. The theme of the webinar,

Xiamen Call for Action: Building the Brain of the City – Universal Principles of Urban Health

The question of how to achieve healthy, sustainable urban futures demands a singular emphasis. The scale and rate of change of modern urbanisation is unprecedented – so much so that it threatens the health gains of the past century. Urbanisation is the greatest ecological shift in human history, and in modern times has attained dimensions never seen before. We have mere decades to enact the greatest transformational change the planet has ever seen, if we are to safeguard a sustainable future. Indeed, the scope, scale, and ambition of transformative efforts need to accelerate dramatically, if humanity is to achieve sustainability before being overwhelmed by global change.

Photo by Tania Melnyczuk on Unsplash

Re-imagining Healthy Cities For People And Nature

If we could discount our future, would we act now, knowing that the decisions made now will shape the risk of emergencies for decades to come?

The commentary below explores a new strategy to health-proof the future of urban development.

Read the commentary below:

Twelve Months of COVID-19: Shaping the Next Era of Science Diplomacy

“Never before in living memory have the connections between our scientific world and our social world been quite so stark as they are today.” Dr. Alondra Nelson, Deputy Director-designate for Science and Society, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy1 COVID-19 is the first

#BlueSkyChallenge #UrbanBetter

Join us to make the UrbanBetter, one breath at a time…
To celebrate the first UN International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies on 07 September 2020, Urban Better and Engage Africa Foundation are running a challenge.

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.

urban planning & development

Dr Tolullah Oni reimagines society after COVID-19

“We have lost our way with thinking about the purpose of cities,…we need to prioritise public health infrastructure”. In this interview with the International Science Council’s Global Science TV host Nuala Hafner, Oni et al. Principal, Tolullah Oni, explains what that means and how it

The pandemic has hi-lighted the flaws in our urban infrastructure.
health foresight

How COVID has revealed the need for a rethink in urban planning

A global Marshall Plan to improve planetary health could safeguard the future of fast-growing cities, writes Tolullah Oni, a public health physician and urban epidemiologist.

She argues that reimagining urban planning decisions would reduce vulnerability to disease and improve health.

How Are Cities Coping With The Covid-19 Pandemic?

In the 16th episode of the Cambridge Centre for Science and Policy (CSaP) podcast series on science, policy and pandemics, recorded in July 2020, VK Madhavan, Dr Tolullah Oni, and Professor Ash Amin joined CSaP Executive Director Dr Rob Doubleday.  They explored how our experiences


WHO planetary health webinar

This first and very engaging webinar in a series hosted by the Global Health Governance: Building the Reset campaign, highlighted the importance of work on planetary health as the next frontier and integrated governance vision for the future. Around a hundred people participated in this dynamic online encounter, exploring the transformative potential of planetary health as a new compass for renovating health governance.


A Marshall plan for urban health in Africa’s cities: Harnessing urban infrastructure development post-COVID-19 to build resilient systems and policies for inclusive (human and planetary) health

Creating inclusive health will require a focus on systems for health, an umbrella term for factors and systems that determine health. Within this umbrella, the healthcare system, a necessary and vital component, is part of the broader systems of health that influence health such as urban


Slum Health: Arresting COVID-19 and Improving Well-Being in Urban Informal Settlements

Here, we offer a set of practice and policy suggestions that aim to (1) dampen the spread of COVID-19 based on the latest available science, (2) improve the likelihood of medical care for the urban poor whether or not they get infected, and (3) provide economic, social, and physical improvements and protections to the urban poor, including migrants, slum communities, and their residents, that can improve their long-term well-being.

Prof Tolu Oni discusses how the world has changed and what challenges we might face post-COVID
urban planning & development

How has the world changed? Urban Health

The first in INGSA’s COVID-19 Video Series, that will be asking a diverse range of experts: How has the world changed and what challenges will we face post-COVID? Prof Tolu Oni discusses what has been revealed by the crisis, our need for ‘Emergency Health Foresight’,

Scientists can teach us how to work across borders to solve global problems. Image: REUTERS/Joseph Campbell

Here’s how ‘science diplomacy’ can help us contain COVID-19

  • ‘Science diplomacy’, meaning international cooperation with science at its core, is the key to overcoming COVID-19.
  • Science paired with diplomacy can bring about unprecedented global change, as shown by the recovery of the ozone layer.
  • Building bridges between science and policy, and between countries, will help us solve the problems of today and tomorrow.
  • A new Lagos isolation and treatment center erected as an additional measure to handle the outbreak of the coronavirus in Lagos, Nigeria
    financing urban development

    Impact Investment’s Pandemic Challenge

    After every global emergency, those who extended support to the world’s poorest and most vulnerable usually snap back to “business as usual,” all but ensuring that the next crisis will be as severe as the last. This time must be different.

    Cuban and Venezuelan healthcare workers carry out a COVID-19 inspection in a Caracas slum Image: REUTERS/Manaure Quintero

    COVID-19 is showing us the link between human and planetary health

  • The damage we have done to our planet is having a direct impact on the spread and severity of COVID-19.
  • The global response, however, demonstrates our ability to work together.
  • By focusing collectively on our planetary health, we can ensure we are better prepared for the next health crisis.
  • A new Lagos isolation and treatment center erected as an additional measure to handle the outbreak of the coronavirus in Lagos, Nigeria
    health foresight

    This is the best time to plan for urban Africa’s next health emergency

    Health, it turns out, is everybody’s business. The Covid-19 pandemic has made this clear, laying bare the gaping cracks in our societal systems that have driven the emergence and unprecedented transmission of a novel coronavirus; and highlighting the need for a more health-aligned societal reset.

    Future Earth

    Earth day future earth talk

    This year marked the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, an annual event celebrated around the world on April 22, to demonstrate support for environmental protection and represents a day of action to shift human behaviour and provoke policy changes. The very first celebration took place

    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.

    An illustration using light blue, yellow, navy blue, beige and white, all colours synonymous with UrbanBetter and Oni et al