Canadian Urban Health Research Partnership to Examine Environmental Impacts on Health

September 23/2016

With more than 80 per cent of Canada’s population living in cities and the urbanized proportion of the global population growing dramatically, there is an urgent need to learn how to design and modify cities to improve, not degrade, population health.

That’s why University of Toronto researchers established the Canadian Urban Environmental Health Research Consortium (CANUE) comprised of more than 80 environmental health experts in academia, government, NGOs and the private sector who will work together on an urban health research program that will improve understanding of how cities can evolve to optimize health.

“This consortium will provide critical environmental health research so policy-makers and urban and regional planners can make evidence-based decisions when addressing the challenges of urbanization and growing suburbs,” said Jeffrey Brook, Assistant Professor of Occupational and Environmental Health at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health and CANUE lead.  “Climate change and how it impacts cities and residents is another priority for CANUE.”

On May 18, 2016, Brook’s research team received funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to examine issues such as, sprawl, traffic congestion, car-dependency, social equity and sustainability.

The research team will link standardized environmental exposure data about air quality, green spaces, walkability, noise, weather/climate and other aspects of the urban/suburban environment to existing human health data platforms, including the Canadian Partnership for Tomorrow Project.

“Much of our health and well-being begins at the neighbourhood level,” said Howard Hu, Dean of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health. “This partnership will examine how environmental factors affect our health — from birth to old age — at an unprecedented, national scale.”

Brook adds that over time, CANUE will map where and how environmental conditions have been and are changing, and how that increases or decreases the risk of health impacts. Climate change is also an important backdrop for CANUE’s research given the need for cities to reduce their contribution and prepare for future impacts.

“With Canada at the forefront of a big data revolution to evaluate the health impacts of the built environment, CANUE’s partnership will allow us to link extensive geospatial and other exposure data to the wealth of population data in Canada,” said Brook, CANUE’s Scientific Director.

CANUE’s principal investigators include: Drs. Jeffrey Brook (U of T, DLSPH), Philip Awadalla (Professor of Population and Medical Genomics at U of T), Michael Brauer (Professor in UBC’s School of Population and Public Health), Howard Hu (U of T, DLSPH), Kim McGrail (Associate Professor in the UBC School of Population and Public Health), Padmaja Subbarao (Assistant Professor, U of T’s Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation) and David Stieb (Medical Epidemiologist for Health Canada and Adjunct Professor at University of Ottawa’s School of Epidemiology, Public Health and Preventive Medicine).

For more information about CANUE, visit the website: http://canue.ca/.

Photo by Diego Torres Silvestre via Flickr.