Building a Methodological Foundation for Impactful Urban Planetary Health Science


Anthropogenic environmental change will heavily impact cities, yet associated health risks will depend significantly on decisions made by urban leaders across a wide range of non-health sectors, including transport, energy, housing, basic urban services, and others. A subset of planetary health researchers focus on understanding the urban health impacts of global environmental change, and how these vary globally and within cities. Such researchers increasingly adopt collaborative transdisciplinary approaches to engage policy-makers, private citizens, and other actors in identifying and evaluating potential policy solutions that will reduce environmental impacts in ways that simultaneously promote health, equity, and/or local economies—in other words, maximising ‘co-benefits’. This report presents observations from a participatory workshop focused on challenges and opportunities for urban planetary health research. The workshop, held at the 16th International Conference on Urban Health (ICUH) in Xiamen, China, in November 2019, brought together 49 participants and covered topics related to collaboration, data, and research impact. It featured research projects funded by the Wellcome Trust’s Our Planet Our Health (OPOH) programme. This report aims to concisely summarise and disseminate participants’ collective contributions to current methodological practice in urban planetary health research.

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We acknowledge the input from Lukasz Aleksandrowicz at Wellcome Trust, Paul Wilkinson at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, our project teams and partners, and the workshop participants themselves. In sharing these findings, we seek to inform colleagues who did not attend the ICUH conference, a decision that could be informed by a desire to reduce personal carbon emissions, among other factors.


The Wellcome Trust funded the following projects, which contributed to this paper: Complex Urban Systems for Sustainability and Health [209387/Z/17/Z], Salud Urbana enAmérica Latina (SALURBAL)/Urban Health in Latin America [205177/Z/16/Z], Revitalising Informal Settlements and their Environments [205222/B/16/Z], Pathways to Equitable Healthy Cities [209376/Z/17/Z]. Support was also provided by Strategy and Technology Research on Climate Change Health Risk Assessment funded by National Health Commission of the People’s Republic of China.

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JS proposed the workshop contents and structure, which were further developed by all authors. All authors participated in preparing and running the workshop. HP wrote the introduction, workshop participants, and conclusion sections and edited the paper. CA wrote the section on collaboration. CPF and JM wrote the data section. DB, EG and YN wrote the impact section. All authors commented on drafts.

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Correspondence to Helen Pineo.

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Pineo, H., Audia, C., Black, D. et al. Building a Methodological Foundation for Impactful Urban Planetary Health Science. J Urban Health (2020).

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  • Urban health
  • Planetary health
  • Transdisciplinary
  • Policy
  • Impact