The partnership between the Resilient Cities Network and Yale University was formed to explore co-benefits of climate and health resilience and identify evidence-based interventions. As a first step in this partnership, we conducted a brief survey among city leaders in 2023 to identify priority areas in climate health, capacity and existing infrastructure, and opportunities for collaboration.
More than 50% of the world’s population lives in urban areas, projected to increase to 70% by 2050. City residents report greater life satisfaction and have greater access to services, technology, and economic opportunities than non-urban dwellers. Despite these benefits, urban residents face substantial challenges to achieving health and well-being. Those in cities experience greater exposure to air pollution and extreme heat, both of which are associated with adverse respiratory, cardiovascular, and mental health outcomes.
Climate and health are major concerns for surveyed cities. Leaders rate both issues equally vital.
Health stresses rated most important are built environment, inequalities, air pollution- and heat-related diseases, and strains on healthcare systems.
Climate-related shocks most important are extreme heat, flooding, insufficient urban greenspace, and poor air quality.
Vulnerable populations such as children, older adults, those with chronic health conditions, marginalized and poor communities all rank highly as populations of specific concern, and need dedicated resources to thrive.
Obesity, hypertension, diabetes, infectious diseases, injuries and motor vehicle accidents are also more prevalent in urban areas. Beyond these physiological consequences, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concludes that climate change adversely impacts mental health. Studies link climate-fueled disruptions to many forms of psychopathology, including anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and suicide.
Within cities, those living in concentrated poverty and/or with poor access to health and social services are disproportionately vulnerable, resulting in profound inequities. As such, cities are on the frontline to promote climate resilience, health and equity. Building capacity to serve cities’ most vulnerable populations reduces strain on healthcare systems, where competing priorities require scarce resources to be allocated equitably and efficiently.
OUR VISION IS TO CULTIVATE URBAN RESILIENCE AND HEALTH:
Increasing the capacity of systems and individuals to thrive, despite chronic stresses and acute shocks of climate change. Urban governance is siloed, with separate teams addressing health and mental health, designing disaster recovery plans, exploring sustainability, and examining land-use planning and infrastructure. An integrated, multisector approach advances our collective understanding of the impacts of climate on health, empowering us to meet the demands of today’s interconnected world.