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Social and Physical Urban Environment and Cardiovascular Health: The Much Needed Population Approach

Final Report Summary - HEARTHEALTHYHOODS (Social and Physical Urban Environment and Cardiovascular Health: The Much Needed Population Approach)

The main objective of the ERC StG 336893 HeartHealthyHoods (HHH) project was to study the associations between the social and physical features of the urban environment and population cardiovascular health in the city of Madrid. The HHH project has characterized the social and physical urban environment in the city of Madrid, in terms of tobacco, alcohol, food and physical activity, applying different quantitative, qualitative, GIS and participatory methodologies.

The HHH project had a unique and high-risk design combining urban exposure measurements with health outcomes data collected from the primary care system in the whole city Madrid. A longitudinal cohort population-based study with 1720 participants aged 40-75 has been established in collaboration with over 400 primary care professionals. A follow-up study of the anonymized electronic health records of 1,4 million aged 40-75 Madrid citizens who are primary care users. This complex and novel design offers the opportunity to understand the cardiovascular health status of a whole city in relation to its urban social and physical environment.
Manuel Franco built an interdisciplinary research group including pre-doctoral and post-doctoral researchers, co-investigators and technicians from the fields of public health, epidemiology, primary health care, geography, sociology, anthropology, nursing, and biology. This interdisciplinary, young, and motivated team has already achieved important scientific and social impacts.

The HHH team, in this first 5 years, has already published 31 scientific international articles, three book chapters, and one book.

The HHH project has trained a new generation of interdisciplinary urban health researchers who will shape the future of this thriving research field.

The HHH research team has been able to obtain further funding in competitive research grants for a total budget of over 900.000€ through 8 sub-studies expanding the HHH project in different aspects and methods. We were also able to secure extra funding for four pre-doctoral students through highly competitive career development fellowships.

The HHH project has been presented worldwide in scientific conferences and top-tier institutions. We have established international collaborations with excellent researchers at the University of Edinburgh, University of Liverpool, the Drexel University School of Public Health, the City University of New York and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

An important achievement over the entire lifetime of the project has been the research communication strategy aiming to accelerate research translation into public policies. Manuel Franco was invited to present the project at the European Parliament and at the European Commission both in Brussels and Strasbourg. He also participated in the Science and Technology Options Assessment (STOA)-ERC event “Investing in Young Researchers, Shaping Europe’s Future” in Strasbourg, where he shared with elected members the HHH design and results.

Finally, Manuel Franco was invited to meet the Spanish Prime Minister and the Minister of Health to present his views on urban health inequalities research and translation into social policies. In August 2019 the Spanish Minister of Health organized the full day meeting: “Urban Health Inequalities in Spain and Europe: The Heart Healthy Hoods project experience”.