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Innovative actions for improving urban health and wellbeing - addressing environment, climate and socioeconomic factors


European research should engage to build the evidence base of effective policies, developing and testing new initiatives to improve urban health and environment in Europe. Given the variety of national experiences across European countries and regions, there is an important potential to learn from each other’s practices and develop innovative actions for urban health.

Proposals should develop and test effective actions and/or policies for improved urban health and wellbeing in Europe. Where applicable, health inequalities and environmental aspects should be addressed. These actions or policies should also be assessed for cost-effectiveness as well as barriers and facilitators to implementation. Proposals should address improved physical or mental health, or both, while considering the relevant socio-economic and/or environmental determinants of health. They could address any sector (with priority on other sectors than health care) or policy area relevant to achieve a lasting health improvement. Proposals should include analysis of vulnerable groups and gender aspects and address any such inequities in the design of interventions. Research teams should bring in all appropriate scientific disciplines to design and test interventions. This includes social scientists not least for their role on behavioural aspects

In order to link research to practical needs and user demands, teams should include other relevant parties in urban health, building partnership with stakeholders such as policy makers, users, business, and local communities. Proposals should address the need for more systematic data collection on urban health across the EU, to allow better analysis and conclusions. This may include the linking up with relevant population based cohorts.

As urban health is of concern in many regions of the world, proposals should foresee the possibility to link up internationally with other relevant urban health initiatives. Proposals should include in their budgets funds for participation in at least one international meeting gathering urban health initiatives relevant to the research.

The Commission considers that a proposal requesting an EU contribution between EUR 4 and 5 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

The natural and built[[Man-made structures, features, and facilities viewed collectively as an environment in which people live and work (]] environment as well as the social fabric are critical determinants of health and well-being. Three quarters of the European population now live in cities and urbanisation continues at high speed, driven by economic growth and employment opportunities. The related environmental changes e.g. pollution of air and water, transportation problems, reduced social cohesion and stress affect physical as well as mental health. Although health has improved in the EU over the last decades, large differences in health still exist between and within all countries in the EU. These differences are caused by many factors such as living conditions, health-related behaviour, education, occupation and income, health care. Some of these inequalities are widening[[]]. As European cities are growing, they are increasingly taking action and introducing policies to become more sustainable and liveable, adapting to climate change, investing in a range of smart and innovative solutions such as clean and sustainable transport, higher energy efficiency and stronger social cohesion. Similar initiatives are underway e.g. in Canada, USA as well as in Asia and Africa which could provide valuable knowledge.

At EU level, the Urban Agenda for the EU[[]] focuses on improving the life of their citizens for example through the development of digital solutions, reducing urban poverty and better integration of migrants and refugees. The headline targets in the EU2020 strategy aim to turn the EU into a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy delivering high levels of employment, productivity and social cohesion[[]].

Improving urban health and reducing health disparities can be achieved by changes in individual behaviour as well as policies such as urban design and sustainable transport, (re)creating green and blue space or improved housing standards. There is a need to address public policies across sectors to achieve health benefits, systematically taking into account the health implications of decisions, to seek synergies, and avoid harmful health impacts (health in all policies[[]]).

  • More robust evidence for policy making on improved urban health in the EU
  • Improved population health, physical and/or mental, in urban areas of the EU
  • Reduced health inequalities in urban areas