Institute of Urban Environment to host Urban Health and Well-Being International Programme Office

ICSU has launched a new research programme on Urban Health and Wellbeing that will be hosted at the Institute of Urban Environment (IUE) in the city of Xiamen in southern China.

The Urban Health programme is a 10-year interdisciplinary research effort whose overall aim is to generate policy-relevant knowledge that will improve health status, reduce health inequalities and enhance the well-being of urban dwellers. It will focus on the integration of natural, social, medical and engineering sciences using systems approaches to address the complexity of urban issues and their influence on health.

The International Programme Office (IPO) will be led by Dr Franz Gatzweiller as the new Executive Director and will support the work of an International Scientific Committee which is responsible for overall scientific planning. Funding for five years has been secured from the Institute of Urban Environment, Xiamen Municipal Government, China Association for Science and Technology (CAST) and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

“Hosting this exciting new programme will contribute significantly to the internationalization of the institute. We will fully support the programme office, including by encouraging our staff to work with this international team for both research and capacity building in the next few years,” said Yong-Guan Zhu, who is the Director of IUE.

With over half of the World’s population living in urban areas, the urban population is increasing by about 2% annually. Urbanization presents opportunities and risks, as well as enormous challenges to maintain and improving human health and wellbeing. Systems analysis, which is explicitly designed to deal with complexity, and which draws on insights and inputs from diverse scientific disciplines, is an approach that has unique potential to address these issues. It is an approach that can enable the scientific community to generate and communicate knowledge in a way that can usefully inform policy choices based on the realities of urban environments.

Health and Wellbeing was included as a new priority in the 1st ICSU Strategic Plan 2006-2011 in response to the interest of a number of its Members, and particularly a large group of Unions. In January 2014, the United Nations University (UNU) and the InterAcademy Medical Panel (IAMP) joined ICSU as the co-sponsors of the new 10-year global interedisciplinary science programme on Health and Wellbeing in the Changing Urban Environment: a Systems Analysis Approach. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed between ICSU (on behalf of the cosponsors) and the Institute of Urban Environment (IUE) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), China to host the International Programme Office in Xiamen, China.

The official launch of the Urban Health and Wellbeing IPO is scheduled on 9 December 2014. Rudiger Klein, Executive Director of IRDR, an international programme co-sponsored by ICSU will attend the said event.

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