Urban Health is important due to urbanisation and it requires specific information not captured by national datasets. The EURO-URHIS (European Urban Health Indicator System) project, funded by DG SANCO, identified urban health indicators and their availability.
EURO-URHIS 2 (European Urban Health Indicator System Part 2) has taken this further by developing methodology and validated tools useful to policy makers at all levels to make health gains via evidence based policy decisions for urban populations. The EURO-URHIS 2 project consists of 18 partners in 14 different countries across Europe and Vietnam and the project identifies health problems in urban areas.
The project describes health and health determinants specific to urban areas in Europe, covering cities in North, East, South, and West Europe. This project adds to information that is already locally available, in that it is the first study to enable reliable comparisons of health status between different cities in Europe. Policy makers can use the information to prioritise topics for urban health policy and for interventions in an evidence-based way.
Data were collected using three approaches: interrogation and extraction of existing sources; a cross-sectional survey using lifestyle, health status and environment questionnaires; and a survey of policy makers to determine priorities in terms of policies and interventions for their urban area. Tools were formulated, piloted, translated and disseminated. The data was validated and analysed to develop specific tools for policy makers to use.
The meta-data collected has formed the context to investigate trends in policy, major health problems, and it has allowed for investigation of the link between the two. Differences in health indicators can be compared for benchmarking and to make changes. In total, data from 26 urban areas in Europe were available for between-city comparisons and benchmarking.
Trends of population health in urban areas are an important topic for research due to the continued rapid urbanisation across Europe and the rest of the world. Urban health can be defined as “health that is specific to urban areas” which includes healthcare systems and all measures to improve health, including setting up services.
The health requirements of urban areas require research because neither national nor regional based methodology will capture the necessary information that policy makers need to make evidence based decisions on allocation of resources for health care.
The aims of the project were to:
The EURO-URHIS 2 project collaborated with policy-makers, researchers, non-governmental agencies and civil society through a number of activities, including consultation during the development stage, through training workshops and through the European Urban Health Conference in Amsterdam, September 2012.
EURO-URHIS 2 has produced profiles for each participating city, to be used for benchmarking and future monitoring of urban health. These included calculation of summary measures of population health (Disability Adjusted Life Years, Healthy Life Years, future trends and Population Impact Measures) in relation to risk factors to health and disease, providing public health policymakers with information to make informed decisions about their populations.
It is anticipated that different risk factors will be more prominent in some cities compared to others, with some congruence between those cities with similar fundamental conditions. The project provided information on a wide range of determinants of health specific to urban populations and offer insight into the feasibility of conducting uniform surveys in multiple languages in different cultural contexts. Differences expected between cities, both within and between countries were observed.
It is expected that different public health priorities will emerge in different cities based upon the findings of EURO-URHIS 2. All the health profiles for each of the 26 cities, together with the raw data, meta-data and validation can be found on our websites: www.urhis.eu and results.urhis.eu . The websites also provide data from other participating urban areas and comparisons between specific cities can be made.
The EURO-URHIS 2 project has been disseminated widely via an exclusive supplement of the European Journal of Public Health, four PhDs, 78 peer-reviewed publications and presentations, validation of existing adult and youth survey instruments, Urban Health Impact Assessment and Screening tools, and Health Profiles for 26 Urban Areas.
In addition, EURO-URHIS 2 established links with other organisations including the WHO, UN Habitat, the European Public Health Association, the International Society of Urban Health, and played a major role in several conferences such as the Festival of Public Health UK (www.festivalofpublichealthuk.co.uk ) and the 11th International Conference on Urban Health (ICUH 2014). Methodology is freely available including the EURO-URHIS 2 “cookbook”.
The web platforms provide both access to the data and metadata for the lay population, researchers and policy makers. The future of the EURO-URHIS programme has led to scientific partnerships with existing and new Universities including ERASMUS University of Rotterdam and Georgia State University.