Health & Wellbeing (Disbanded)
About the Planning Group
Urban areas are expanding rapidly, and in many cases seemingly uncontrollably, in all regions of the World. In the past two centuries the proportion of humans living in cities or large towns has increased from approximately 5% to 50%. This social transition has, not surprisingly, been accompanied by a changing pattern of human health risks and consequent illness and disease. Numerous studies, from both natural and social sciences, have provided considerable insights into to what these changes are and why they are occurring. Thus far, however, it could be argued that science has generally failed to take account of the complexity of the urban environments. In so doing it has also failed to consistently provide useful evidence for the policy makers, who have to grapple with urban challenges on a daily basis. A systems analysis approach, specifically designed to take into account the complexity of urban environments and the needs of policy makers, could help to redress this. ICSU Scoping Group report, March 2007
Human Health was a new priority area for ICSU when it was included in the Strategic Plan, 2006-2011. A large number of Scientific Unions had begun working together in 2002 to promote an initiative on Science for Health and Wellbeing. At the same time, a separate programme on Global Environmental Change and Health was being developed by the Earth Systems Science Partnership. In 2006, the Committee on Scientific Planning and Review established an ad hoc Scoping Group to liaise with and advise on these various activities and help define ICSU’s future strategy in this area. The Scoping exercise identified the need for a more holistic/systems approach to health issues in the urban environment as being an area in which ICSU and its members might make a unique contribution.
In 2007, a Planning Group was established with the aim of developing a new interdisciplinary programme focussing on “A systems analysis approach to health and wellbeing in the changing urban environment”. In order to initiate the planning process a workshop was held at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in January 2008. This brought together around 40 scientists to explore how different disciplinary perspectives and knowledge might be integrated into a systems approach. The Planning Group has subsequently met on five occasions, including discussions with local urban policy makers. A draft science plan was circulated to the ICSU Membership, for consideration, in January 2011 and revised accordingly. The 30th ICSU General Assembly approved the establishment of a new ten-year interdisciplinary initiative in September 2011.
by Jacinta Legg