WHO’s UrbanHEART was key to Toronto Strong Neighbourhoods Strategy 2020 plan to increase equity. But can this tool be used in smaller cities?

Read about the benefits and challenges to using UrbanHEART in a non-metropolitan context.  

Take note: Canadian social planning councils. And worldwide: urban planners working for municipal governments, especially in transportation, housing, social services, and recreation departments. Also highly relevant for public health practitioners working in local public health units.

Where you live matters to your health. Accordingly, in 2010, the World Health Organization created the Urban HEART tool to measure social and health inequities at the intra-city level. In North America, an adapted version of this tool was applied in Toronto Canada. However, the feasibility and utility of applying the Urban HEART tool to smaller jurisdictions has never been tested in Canada.

What we did and why: We applied the Toronto-adapted Urban HEART tool to assess health and social inequities in Kingston, Ontario (population 117,660). In doing so, we examined the feasibility and utility of the Urban HEART tool to a jurisdiction that is considerably smaller than Toronto (population 2.7 million), and we assessed how this tool might add value compared to several established indexes that are commonly used by planning and public health scholars and practitioners in Canada.

What this study adds:  To our knowledge, this is the first study to apply the Urban HEART tool to a non-metropolitan city in North America, and to compare results from the Urban HEART to other established indexes of deprivation and marginalization.

We found that collecting data for the Population Health domain of the Urban HEART tool is especially challenging in non-metropolitan cities due to privacy concerns with disaggregated microdata. However, we also found that the Urban HEART tool provides a more nuanced depiction of intra-city socio-spatial inequities compared to established tools.

Implications for city policy and practice: There are two main implications for city policy and practice

  • Firstly, that the Urban HEART is a valuable tool for city planners and public health officials because it documents intra-city inequities for various indicators from which area-based interventions can be derived.
  • Secondly, that in the Canadian context, the Urban HEART tool is most feasibly applied in large and densely populated jurisdictions to enable the inclusion of Population Health indicators.

We also suggest that the tool works best in cities where strong partnerships exist with university-based researchers who have the expertise to carry out the analysis.

Full article: Evaluating the feasibility and utility of the Urban HEART tool for assessing social and health inequities in a mid-sized Canadian city

Useful links:
Briefing about Toronto Community Health profiles: Urban HEART @Toronto
Urban HEART @Toronto: Technical Report/User Guide
Urban HEART: Urban Health Equity Assessment and Response Tool: user manual
Urban HEART: Urban Health Equity Assessment and Response Tool.

Authors: Kyle Pakeman (@kyleplanman), Patricia A. Collins (@healthycityprof)
City Know-how editor: Marcus Grant