, Volume 88, Issue 5, pp 896-905,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 07 Sep 2011

Rights, Knowledge, and Governance for Improved Health Equity in Urban Settings

Abstract

All three of the interacting aspects of daily urban life (physical environment, social conditions, and the added pressure of climate change) that affect health inequities are nested within the concept of urban governance, which has the task of understanding and managing the interactions among these different factors so that all three can be improved together and coherently. Governance is defined as: “the process of collective decision making and processes by which decisions are implemented or not implemented”: it is concerned with the distribution, exercise, and consequences of power. Although there appears to be general agreement that the quality of governance is important for development, much less agreement appears to exist on what the concept really implies and how it should be used. Our review of the literature confirmed significant variation in meaning as well as in the practice of urban governance arrangements. The review found that the linkage between governance practices and health equity is under-researched and/or has been neglected. Reconnecting the fields of urban planning, social sciences, and public health are essential “not only for improving local governance, but also for understanding and addressing global political change” for enhanced urban health equity. Social mobilization, empowering governance, and improved knowledge for sustainable and equitable development in urban settings is urgently needed. A set of strategic research questions are suggested.