Press & News |

Cities Around the World Share Success Stories on Health Equity

5 Minute Read
Credit: Anna Abenhaim for The International Society for Urban Health

 

  • The International Society for Urban Health has launched a new Active-Learning Resource Center to drive global health equity 
  • Stories of equity successes worldwide can help drive more interventions that will improve people’s health
  • Experts see equity and community-led efforts as critical to cities’ efforts to improve the health of their residents

By CGI Staff

Bhagwatinagar, India is an informal community in the heart of Ahmedabad, where Bhanuben Dineshbhai Solanki and many of her neighbors live in small, simple homes that double as workplaces. 

“Summer and monsoon season are difficult for people with tin roofs,” Solanki explains. “It is difficult to work when the roof becomes very hot. People can’t stay inside.” 

Temperatures inside frequently reach as high as 47.8C (118F), and homes flood often due to extreme weather events tied to climate change that are becoming more common. This has detrimental impacts on health, quality of life, and the ability to earn a living. 

To address this issue in Ahmedabad, a social entrepreneur and a community-based nonprofit worked together to develop a new, innovative, low-cost roof that keeps houses cooler and insulated from rain. Entrepreneur Hasit Ganatra and Mahila Housing Trust (MHT), a deeply embedded local NGO, led a community design process in which women like Solanki provided ongoing design input.

After 500 of these modular roofs were installed across informal communities in India, 30 percent of the families with the new roofs reported that – free from flooding and extreme heat – they had been able to begin new or expand existing economic activities.

These sorts of innovations – created in close collaboration with local residents – can have a life-changing impact on communities and help fight rising health disparities in vulnerable urban settings. 

Now, as part of a Commitment to Action launched at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) 2023 Meeting in New York, the International Society for Urban Health (ISUH) is aiming to take these lessons to scale and share these success stories with civil society leaders, government decision makers, and urban planners who can use them in their own communities.  

ISUH has been a thought leader in healthy urban development for over two decades. With the support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, ISUH has spent the last two years studying how cities and communities around the world have successfully implemented more equitable and sustainable development models as part of the Accelerating City Equity (ACE) Project.

Following years of research, the ACE Project is now focused on disseminating knowledge and inspiring collaboration with the launch of the Active-Learning Resource Center (acehealthequity.org).

The Resource Center presents findings from two years of global investigation for drivers of equitable development including a practical Starter Kit and a Library of equity ‘Bright Spot’ examples. A spotlight from this Center is “Stories from the Field.” a video series that features powerful stories illustrating the real-world impact of initiatives that prioritize health equity, such as the cool roof story featured above, and offering tangible insights for policymakers, urban planners, and healthcare professions.

Video from the ACE Active-Learning Resource Center “Stories from the Field”

“ISUH is sharing what works – helping bring to scale proven, successful strategies that are reducing health disparities in cities around the world,” said Franciscka Lucien, Director of Health Equity at CGI, underscoring the significance of the learning center. “This is key to unlocking solutions that work in diverse urban landscapes, and inspiring collective action for urban health equity.”

Giselle Sebag, the Executive Director of ISUH, emphasized the significance of this commitment in sharing global equitable development approaches: “Cities face substantial health challenges, but also have an unprecedented opportunity to create and transform urban environments to promote health, well-being, and equity for all. The ACE Active-Learning Resource Center shares the tools and knowledge needed to drive positive health outcomes for all residents in communities across the world.”

ISUH has aligned their Commitment to Action with the broader international agenda for sustainable and inclusive urban development. As Sebag remarked, “Health equity is not just an inaccessible luxury but a fundamental human right. It is our collective responsibility to develop communities where every individual, regardless of background, circumstance or geography, has the opportunity to attain their highest level of health, ensuring that we all thrive.” 

(Generative AI was used in the drafting of this article. Foundation staff supplied, reviewed and edited the content for accuracy and bias.)