Urban health in Africa: A critical global public health priority

Jo Vearey, Isaac Luginaah, Ng’weina Francis Magitta, Dativa J. Shilla and Tolu Oni (2019). Urban health in Africa: A critical global public health priority. BMC Public Health. [OPEN ACCESS]

The African continent is predicted to be home to over half of the expected global population growth between 2015 and 2050, highlighting the importance of addressing population health in Africa for improving public health globally. By 2050, nearly 60% of the population of the continent is expected to be living in urban areas and 35–40% of children and adolescents globally are projected to be living in Africa. Urgent attention is therefore required to respond to this population growth – particularly in the context of an increasingly urban and young population. To this end, the Research Initiative for Cities Health and Equity in Africa (RICHE Africa) Network aims to support the development of evidence to inform policy and programming to improve urban health across the continent. This paper highlights the importance of action in the African continent for achieving global public health targets. Specifically, we argue that a focus on urban health in Africa is urgently required in order to support progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and other global and regional public health targets, including Universal Health Coverage (UHC), the new Urban Agenda, and the African Union’s Agenda 2063. Action on urban public health in Africa is critical for achieving global public health targets. Four key research and training priorities for improving urban health in Africa, are outlined: (1) increase intersectoral urban health literacy; (2) apply a healthy urban governance and systems approach; (3) develop a participatory and collaborative urban health planning process; and, (4) produce a new generation of urban health scholars and practitioners. We argue that acting on key priorities in urban health is critical for improving health for all and ensuring that we ‘leave no-one behind’ when working to achieve these regional and global agendas to improve health and wellbeing.

About Jo Vearey

Jo Vearey is a Professor and the Director of the African Centre for Migration & Society, University of the Witwatersrand. She holds an Honorary Fellowship with the School of Social and Political Science at the University of Edinburgh, and a Senior Fellowship at the Centre for Peace, Development and Democracy at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. In 2015, Jo was awarded a Humanities and Social Science Wellcome Trust Investigator Award. Jo holds a MSc in the Control of Infectious Diseases (LSHTM, 2003), a PhD in Public Health (Wits, 2010), and has been rated by the National Research Foundation as a Young Researcher. In 2014 and 2015, Jo received a Friedel Sellschop Award from the University of the Witwatersrand for outstanding young researchers. She was a Marie Curie Research Fellow in 2013, at the UNESCO Chair on Social and Spatial Inclusion of Migrants, University of Venice (SSIM-IUAV), Venice, Italy.

With a commitment to social justice and the development of pro-poor policy responses, Jo’s research explores international, regional, national and local responses to migration, health, and urban vulnerabilities. Her research interests focus on urban health, public health, migration and health, the social determinants of health, HIV, informal settlements and sex work. Jo is particularly interested in knowledge production, dissemination and utilisation including the use of visual and arts-based methodologies.

Jo has a range of international collaborations, including an ESRC-NRF funded project with the University of Edinburgh, a WOTRO funded project with the VU University, Amsterdam on migration and sex work, and partnerships with the University of Massachusetts Boston and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine‘s Faculty of Public Health and Policy and Gender, Violence and Health Unit.

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