Why We Need Urban Health Equity Indicators

Global health challenges are increasingly more prominent as city populations continue to grow, making community health a priority.

This paper discusses the potential for urban health equity indicators, a new approach to address and promote more healthy and equitable cities.  "Recognizing these population health challenges, the United Nations Commission on Social Determinants of Health (2008) called for 'health equity to become a marker of good government performance.' " the authors write. 

By drafting and monitoring indicators in two populations, one in Richmond, Calif. and one in Nairobi, Kenya this paper outlines a new approach for promoting greater health equity. Community health priorities in these north and south populations were organized into broad health equity categories: living conditions, economics and services, and political power and outcomes.

Key Findings:

  • The complexity of cities and multiple factors that contribute to urban health inequities stress the importance that indicator processes be dynamic and adaptable.
  • “Adaptive management” can be applied as a potential model for developing and implementing urban health equity indicators. Ongoing adjustments made as new information emerges may be more effective than a complex model approach that predicts long-term outcomes.

The use of indicators does have some limitations, and further research similar to the examples discussed in this paper is necessary. Yet, the evidence emerging from both Richmond, Calif. and Nairobi, Kenya shows that the ability to integrate science, policy, and community presents a promising new approach to address urban health equity.

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