Update on IPPH’s Healthy Cities Research Initiative

Dear colleagues,

Last fall IPPH identified healthy cities research as one of our three priority areas for the next five years. Since then, we have engaged partners and stakeholders across sectors including researchers, community organizers, funders, government officials, and municipal decision-makers to better understand the gaps and the opportunities that exist in this space. Research on designing, developing and sustaining healthy cities has the potential to transform Canada’s urban landscape – where 82% of us now live – but that depends on us working both strategically and intersectorally. Our consultations have reinforced this notion, and I am pleased to update you on our efforts.

Over two days in late fall, IPPH hosted a Think Tank on Healthy Cities. We brought together 47 research leaders to inform the direction of our initiative. As a result of the Think Tank, working groups are currently being formed to continue advising on future directions and carry out tasks vital to the success of this effort. Additionally, through the meeting we also confirmed the need to act in four different areas in support of healthy cities research: 1) funding transformative intervention and implementation science research; 2) training the next generation of researchers; 3) facilitating improved access to harmonized data and indicators; and 4) engaging cities in the research enterprise. We also heard that we need to continue embedding equity principles within everything that we do and that IPPH has an important role to play in facilitating evidence-informed policymaking by municipal governments and community stakeholders.

We have already started to build these components. Currently, we have partnered with the Urban Public Health Network to conduct a scan of city data, organized a network of international agencies funding healthy cities research, and we are helping to coordinate a plenary session on health cities at the Canadian Public Health Association’s Conference in May 2018. Our planning grants, launched October 2017, have funded 17 teams working in areas that include wearable technologies, sustainable transportation, and vulnerable urban populations. We are also currently working with federal partners to develop training opportunities. The next steps in developing our healthy cities research initiative include formalizing partnerships and solidifying collaborative opportunities that will contribute towards our four core components.

Finally, we are currently working on our operational plan for this priority area and I look forward to sharing it with the research community and other stakeholders in the next few months. Thank you to everyone who has lent their time, ideas and energy towards the development of this initiative – which I believe has the potential for great impact in Canada and beyond.


Steven J. Hoffman JD PhD LLD
Scientific Director, CIHR Institute of Population & Public Health
Director, Global Strategy Lab, and
Professor, Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research, York University

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