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Current projects

Healthy cities

This multi-study inter-disciplinary collaboration, initiated by the African Centre for Cities at the University of Cape Town, aims to contribute to global research on the role of the urban environment in shaping illness, health and well-being. As one of the project partners, the Children’s Institute leads a sub-project on Healthy Cities for Children.

The urban environment, at neighbourhood or community scale, has been recognised by international research to shape illness, health and well-being. To contribute to existing knowledge on this topic from the global North, Healthy Cities investigates the relationship between urban environments and well-being in the global South.

In 2011, the Children’s Institute contributed to the collaboration by conducting a first round of fieldwork in Khayelitsha, one of the largest townships in the country. Bodymap techniques were used to enable discussion on the concepts of health, well-being and the influence of the urban environment on these. Workshops in three different types of settlements showed a need to be careful with the uncontextualised copying of concepts of health and well-being developed in the North onto South Africa’s more complex, post-apartheid urban situation.

The Healthy Cities for Children component involves a multi-disciplinary research team to contribute to an understanding of the situation and well-being of children in diverse urban settings in South Africa. The research aims to:

  • investigate how child nutrition and health are influenced by a particular urban setting and new urban planning;
  • develop a deeper understanding of the ways in which urban planning influences the accessibility of health care services and the health-seeking behaviour of children, youth and their caregivers;
  • contribute to understanding how various urban settings and the new urban planning affect networks of child care; and
  • grow research expertise in the fields of children’s studies and urban planning studies, and of “mixed methods” studies in these fields.

Four post-graduate students are focusing on the impact of the urban environment on child nutrition; patterns of geographic mobility and child care arrangements; urban fatherhood and child care; and children's access to health facilities, respectively. A number of Healthy Cities for Children workshops and “Urban Child Citylabs” have been organised since 2011 to bring together researchers, postgraduate students, urban town planners and policy-makers to discuss research evidence.

This research will provide evidence to assist government decision-makers and practitioners to create policies, programmes and institutions that support children’s well-being in urban environments.

In 2012, a grant from the South Africa–Netherlands Research Programme on Alternatives in Development (SANPAD) supported this work.

Health Cities for Children project team: Children's Institute: Ariane De Lannoy, Katharine Hall, Shirley Pendlebury. African Centre for Cities: Jane Battersby-Lennard. Department of Anthropology: Efua Prah, supervised by Susan Levine; Andile Mayekiso, supervised by Fiona Ross; Health Science Faculty: Manyeleti Sambo, supervised by Michael Hendricks.

Further reading

Healthy Cities website (African Centre for Cities, UCT)

Copyright © 2012 Children's Institute, University of Cape Town

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