Background

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Urbanization has changed the face of the earth and the human experience, including patterns of disease and health equity. As an emerging area of concentration, the DLSPH thematic concentration of Healthier Cities/Communities encompasses education, research, knowledge translation, and service activities focussed on informing, designing and evaluating solutions for complex urban problems impacting population health. We seek to consolidate and build on considerable initiatives already underway at University of Toronto and with existing and additional partners on healthy communities locally, provincially, nationally and internationally. Given rapid urbanization around the world and our location in one of Canada’s largest and most diverse cities, our focus on urban/suburban health equity will bridge to related work on rural-urban linkages and rural community health, in the far north, in aboriginal communities, and in the global South. Our values and skills include Human Rights, Equity and Social Justice; Participation and Partnerships; Sustainability; Innovation and Leadership.

What do we mean by ‘healthier cities and communities’?

Healthier cities and communities are characterized by processes, systems and assets that favour collective well-being: equity, sustainability, social connectedness, resilience, to name a few. We wish to focus our attention on a broad range of risk factors and risk conditions from the individual to macrosocial levels that determine health. These have been widely described elsewhere, including by the WHO Commission on the Social Determinants of Health (2008).

As previously noted, we are researchers and educators committed to working with a wide range of partners on solutions-focused approaches to improving the health of cities and communities, locally and beyond. We acknowledge the considerable contributions to health made by the WHO Healthy Cities and Communities movement around the world.

Healthier Cities/Communities encompasses education, research, knowledge translation, and service activities focussed on informing, designing and evaluating solutions for complex urban problems impacting population health. We seek to consolidate and build on considerable initiatives already underway at University of Toronto and with our partners in surrounding communities on healthier communities locally, provincially, nationally and internationally. This initiative focuses on urban health issues but still includes the web of relations in which the rural is implicated, because cities do not exist in isolation, and we cannot focus everywhere.

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