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Addressing Inequities in Urban Health: Do Decision-Makers Have the Data They Need? Report from the Urban Health Data Special Session at International Conference on Urban Health Dhaka 2015

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Published copy (DOI)


  • H. Elsey
  • D. R. Thomson
  • R. Y. Lin
  • U. Maharjan
  • S. Agarwal
  • J. Newell


Publication details

JournalJournal of Urban Health
DateE-pub ahead of print - 16 May 2016
DatePublished (current) - 1 Jun 2016
Issue number3
Number of pages12
Pages (from-to)526-537
Early online date16/05/16
Original languageEnglish


Rapid and uncontrolled urbanisation across low and middle-income countries is leading to ever expanding numbers of urban poor, defined here as slum dwellers and the homeless. It is estimated that 828 million people are currently living in slum conditions. If governments, donors and NGOs are to respond to these growing inequities they need data that adequately represents the needs of the urban poorest as well as others across the socio-economic spectrum. We report on the findings of a special session held at the International Conference on Urban Health, Dhaka 2015. We present an overview of the need for data on urban health for planning and allocating resources to address urban inequities. Such data needs to provide information on differences between urban and rural areas nationally, between and within urban communities. We discuss the limitations of data most commonly available to national and municipality level government, donor and NGO staff. In particular we assess, with reference to the WHO’s Urban HEART tool, the challenges in the design of household surveys in understanding urban health inequities. We then present two novel approaches aimed at improving the information on the health of the urban poorest. The first uses gridded population sampling techniques within the design and implementation of household surveys and the second adapts Urban HEART into a participatory approach which enables slum residents to assess indicators whilst simultaneously planning the response. We argue that if progress is to be made towards inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities, as articulated in Sustainable Development Goal 11, then understanding urban health inequities is a vital pre-requisite to an effective response by governments, donors, NGOs and communities.

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