Cross-sectoral systems approaches for healthier cities

Malaysian skyline

Cities are now the dominant human habitat, housing 54% of the world’s population and 75% of Malaysians. Yet despite economic and technological progress, intractable urban health problems persist, particularly for disadvantaged groups. These problems often originate in decisions made in non-health sectors such as housing or transportation. Identifying linkages between health and physical, social and ecological environments can lead to better understanding of cross-sectoral impacts and thus healthier, greener, more equitable cities.

The SCHEMA project – which features expertise in systems and place-based methods, urban planning and public health – has examined the interlinked systems that impact urban health in Malaysia. A series of workshops were held to bridge disciplines and sectors, focusing on green infrastructure and food systems in relation to urban health. In addition to developing participants’ skills in systems- and placebased methods, these workshops have nurtured transdisciplinary networks of policy makers, practitioners, academics, community leaders and civil society representatives around urban health and sustainability challenges. Participants have generated a diversity of new initiatives focused on issues such as river restoration, walkability, food systems, and indigenous knowledge.

The SCHEMA team continues to engage with workshop participants and build local and international transdisciplinary communities of practice to tackle serious challenges to urban health and sustainability in Malaysian cities.

This project innovatively joins cross-national expertise linking
systems and place-based approaches, so as to catalyse and inform decision-making for progressing urban health and SDGs, while developing local research and professional capacity.

Professor Terry Marsden

This projects was shortlisted for the Newton Prize 2017

Systems Thinking and Place Based Methods for Healthier Malaysian Cities (SCHEMA).

Project leads: Professor Terry Marsden, Sustainable Places Research Institute at Cardiff University, UK and Dr Jose Siri, United Nations University International Institute for Global Health, Malaysia.

Project partners: British Council and Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology

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