Our vision is to increase scientific understanding of the interactions among the physical features of the urban environment and health. This understanding will lead to cost-effective actions that promote healthy childhood development and aging, reduce the burden of chronic disease, and minimize the impact of changing environments.
Characteristics of urban form, such as air and noise pollution, land use, transportation, physical infrastructure and socioeconomic conditions have separately been linked to health impacts or benefits. How these exposures interact to affect health and how this changes over time and place is not well understood.
CANUE’s mission is to increase knowledge on how these and other related exposures, individually and in combination, affect health and how they can be modified to improve health.
- Build a common, harmonized data and methods platform containing environmental exposure metrics that characterize multiple aspects of urban form.
- Support research on novel integrated approaches to quantify the combined health effects of multiple harmful and protective characteristics of the physical environment in urbanized areas.
- Identify and communicate the results of real-world applications of integrated approaches that provide specific insight into the physical characteristics of Canadian urban/suburban environments that maximize health.
- Increase awareness of the importance of human health in urban development by training current and future scientists, professionals and public leaders so that they can promote and apply these concepts in their careers.
- CANUE is a consortium made up of voluntary members from the multi-disciplinary fields of environmental health research, health policy, and urban design and planning. New members are welcome to join at any time.
MEANINGFUL OPPORTUNITIES FOR INPUT
- CANUE’s strategic plan is based on input from our membership, gained during the development of the Consortium, at its inaugural workshop in December 2016, and through ongoing engagement via CANUE’s feedback page, webinars, conferences and invited presentations. CANUE’s Strategic Plan is reviewed regularly and revised as required to reflect new directions as they become feasible.
- CANUE uses a consensus-based decision model, with the Directors having ultimate responsibility for choosing the activities and approving budget allocations to meet our goals and objectives. Team leaders integrate input from the membership at large into coherent and scientifically sound actions, in collaboration with the Directors and the CANUE Advisory Panel.
- CANUE’s urban environmental exposure data platform is built on the contributions of Canadian data providers and our membership, in the form of analysis-ready data and tools. Unless available in the public domain, every dataset and tool is accompanied by a conditions of use agreement, developed in consultation with the contributor, which must be accepted before access is granted.
PROVIDE DATA & TOOLS
Current state: Environmental health researchers develop their own exposure metrics on an as-needed basis, or may make use of existing metrics due to data availability rather than strong theoretical links to the health outcomes of interest. Once developed, exposure metrics reside with the individual researchers, with no widely available mechanism for archiving or sharing datasets, leading to potential duplication of effort.
Future state: Environmental health researchers and data developers voluntarily contribute existing exposure data to CANUE, and work together to develop and share methods for producing new metrics that better reflect the exposures of interest. CANUE is widely recognized as the premier source of Canadian urban environmental exposure data.
- Provide clearly documented and readily accessible data and tools, with appropriate conditions of use agreements.
- Provide a comprehensive range of linkable national urban exposure metrics reflecting conditions from 1980 onward.
INCREASE RESEARCH OPPORTUNITIES
Current state: Canada has significant investments in health databases, including cohorts that track a wide variety of health outcomes across different life stages, provincial administrative datasets based on health services utilization, and population surveys conducted by Statistics Canada. Urban environmental exposure metrics are linked to these databases on a study-by-study and as-needed basis, and typically only the current residential locations of participants are available. Health databases that could provide urban environmental health research opportunities are under-utilized.
Future state: Environmental health researchers have access to standardized urban environmental exposure metrics that consider residential history in all major Canadian health databases, and are empowered to address more real-world questions regarding interactions among exposures and the subsequent health outcomes. Building on the availability of CANUE’s exposure metrics in a wide variety of health databases, the number of studies integrating multiple exposure factors increases, and includes long-term prospective studies as well as retrospective studies.
- Facilitate the linkage of CANUE data to a wide range of health databases.
- Ensure health databases support the analysis of temporally-resolved exposures.
- Increase the use of health and population databases for urban environmental research.
INCREASE RESEARCH CAPACITY
Current state: Studying the interplay among multiple characteristics of urban form and health requires a wide range of expertise and skills, from sophisticated biostatistics and epidemiological methods to environmental modelling using advanced applications, geographic information systems, remotely sensed data, and database design and management. Researchers and students can face significant challenges in gaining skills and experience across these disciplines.
Future state: Researchers and students have access to targeted training and meaningful interactions with experts from many disciplines. Environmental health researchers are well equipped to carry long-term studies forward for decades to come.
- Provide opportunities for researchers to acquire new analytical skills that can be applied to urban environmental health research.
- Provide opportunities for students to acquire new analytical skills and experience that can be applied to urban environmental health research.
Current state: Knowledge users such as urban designers and planners, public health specialists, or government regulators are not fully aware of existing research evidence about urban design and effects on health. Conversely, environmental health research is often driven by academic priorities, without consideration of knowledge users’ needs.
Future state: Important knowledge user communities receive useful information and evidence from CANUE, based on ongoing consultation, which supports better decision and policy-making.
- Increase knowledge users’ awareness and understanding of urban environment effects on health.
- Increase understanding of knowledge users’ needs and make this widely available to CANUE members.
Current state: There are many independent research groups in Canada and around the world, working on similar research questions and problems. While there is substantial value in having many minds approaching research problems from different perspectives, there is overlap and duplication of effort and research results may be difficult to interpret or compare, undermining the evidence produced.
Future state: Environmental health researchers can easily find and collaborate with other researchers, experts, and initiatives through CANUE, and can realize an ‘economy of scale’ in the development of exposure metrics through working together and in partnerships with big data developers and analytical platforms. New metrics based on common input data are utilized to their full potential in a globally coordinated way, laying the foundation for internationally harmonized studies with substantially increased statistical power and impact to produce strong evidence for policy makers.
- Facilitate new collaborations among members with similar interests and complementary expertise.
- Interact with similar initiatives around the world.
- Conduct innovative cross-disciplinary pilot studies to showcase CANUE’s value.
PLAN FOR THE FUTURE
Current state: CANUE has secure funding until March 2021 from CIHR. Without additional funding, CANUE will be unable to provide updated and improved exposure metrics beyond 2021, even though many of Canada’s health databases will continue on for many decades. The lack of regularly updated metrics in the future will limit the scope of what urban environmental health research and policy evaluation can accomplish with respect to understanding how chronic health outcomes are affected by urban design. In the near term, feedback from our members and knowledge users suggests there will be demand for CANUE support and evidence that may not be met with our current funding.
Future state: CANUE attracts operational funding from a variety of sources based on the recognized value of our data platform and membership expertise. In addition, CANUE members are successful in securing new funding to expand CANUE data products, to conduct research applying CANUE data, or to conduct research using a wide range of health databases with pre-linked metrics from CANUE. CANUE Directors and Team Leaders provide active mentorship and leadership changes over time to include early career researchers.
- Ensure CANUE’s value is widely recognized.
- Ensure CANUE is supported by diverse funding sources.
- Develop and implement a leadership succession plan.