Brown School Faculty, Students Launch Lancet Series on Health, Sustainable Cities

Community Engagement; Global; Policy; Public Health; Research; Social Work

How do you know if a city is healthy and sustainable? Over 80 researchers around the world worked together as part of the Global Healthy and Sustainable City-Indicators Collaboration to answer that question. ‘Urban Design, Transport and Health Series 2’ premieres this week in The Lancet Global Health and shares their findings. Register now for the launch webinar on May 12, 2022.

Deborah Salvo, assistant professor of public health and co-director of the People, Health and Place unit at the Brown School, served on the executive committee that led this ambitious study for three and a half years. In that role, she co-authored all the papers in the series. Salvo is joined by contributing authors Rodrigo Reis, interim co-dean of the Brown School, and public health PhD student Eugen Resendiz

Salvo and colleagues developed evidence-based urban policy and spatial indicators for determining whether cities are promoting health and sustainability. Their work dovetails with the priorities of Driving Equity 2030, the Brown School’s 10-year strategic plan. Uplifting community-driven science is one of the plan’s strategic priorities, with a goal of making equitable population-level impact in local and global communities. 

“We found that cities had a lot of ambition to be healthy, sustainable and livable. But they didn’t have measurable targets which would help them achieve their ambition,” said Billie Giles-Corti, distinguished professor at RMIT University and Collaboration lead, in the series launch video

Salvo also led the development of the Global Observatory of Healthy and Sustainable Cities. Both She and Reis are excited about expanding the indicators globally. 

 “In addition to presenting the science behind the indicators with the new Lancet series, another key goal of our Collaborative was to provide easy-to-use tools for local goal setting, tracking, and advocacy towards healthy and sustainable cities worldwide. Our Observatory includes freely available scorecards, which are one-page infographics, and reports for the 25 cities of the study, and our goal is to eventually grow to include over 1000 cities worldwide,” said Salvo. 

Cities are rated using various evidence-based criteria, including: 

  • Density and connectivity across neighborhoods 
  •  Access to food markets 
  •  Employment distribution 
  • Neighborhood walkability 
  •  Access to public open spaces that promote physical activity 

“Having recently launched the People, Health and Place unit with Deborah Salvo as part of the Prevention Research Center umbrella at the Brown School, we are thrilled to have been able to contribute in such a meaningful way to this high-impact, global project,” said Reis.