Grant awarded for urban health research | The Triangle

Grant awarded for urban health research

Khachik Simonian Unsplash
Khachik Simonian Unsplash

Researchers at Drexel University’s Dornsife School of Public Health received a $12 million grant to study health in Latin American cities.

Four international groups will be splitting the grant money totaling $36 million. One of those partnerships is spearheaded by Ana Diez Roux, dean of Drexel’s Dornsife School of Public Health and director of the Urban Health Collaborative.

Roux and her team will study how health is affected in highly urbanized areas of Latin America. Specifically, they will analyse how the man-made, natural and economic environments link to well-being of citizens in large cities. They will also study the impact of newly introduced policies meant to improve health in urban areas.

“Environment affects health for example, levels of air pollution and heat have especially strong health impacts in cities but many of the things we can do to make people healthier…also have favorable implications for the environment…and that is a key goal of the project,” Roux told Drexel Now.

The project will look at 10 countries and hundreds of cities across Latin America.

There are several other Drexel affiliates on Roux’s team, including Amy Auchincloss, Brent Langellier, Gina Lovasi, Yvonne Michael, Harrison Quick, Jose Tapia and Leslie McClure. The remaining members of the team are from universities all across the United States and other countries including Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Mexico, Peru, Guatemala, Colombia and Malaysia.

Studying the impact of health in urban environments is particularly notable since more than half of the world’s population lives in city environments. That number is projected to shoot up to 70 percent by the year 2050.  

“What is clear is that many of the lessons we draw from this study will be relevant not only to U.S. cities but also to cities all over the world,” Roux said.

One other team from the awardees  will be studying health in urban environments in addition to Roux’s team. Rebekah Brown from Australian college Monash University will lead a team investigating how to improve sanitation in Fijian and Indonesian cities.

Two additional partnerships also received funding as a part of this grant and will study food choices.

Oxford University professor Charles Godfray and his team will delve deeper into the impacts of animal-sourced food, particularly in the United Kingdom. Alan Dangour, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, will build on prior work done and look into healthy food systems in India and South Africa.

All of the partnerships are also working with other organizations in order to turn their findings into actionable outcomes.

The grant is from a global charitable foundation originally created by Sir Henry Wellcome, a 20th century pharmacist and philanthropist.

The Wellcome Foundation began a new funding commitment of $94 million called Our Planet, Our Health in 2015.

According to their website, Our Planet, Our Health has four initiatives: building an interdisciplinary research community, creating partnerships among sectors, informing decision makers, and engaging the public.

“There are so many factors that need to be addressed if we are to create a healthy and sustainable future. These major research programmes bring together collaborators from all over the world to explore how we can create health, not just prevent disease, while being responsible custodians of the planet,” Sarah Molton, a leader of Wellcome’s work, said.
For more information on Wellcome, visit