Special issue: Call for contributions for the journal Cities & Health 
Working Draft for comment (v1 16.05.22)

Some of the greatest advances in urban health have emerged as a result of community-based campaigns or broader social movements.   These advances have focused on issues that have included

  • living conditions of urban living (housing, air and water quality or access to open space or food),
  • safeguarding vulnerable sections of the urban population, (particularly children, those with disabilities or addiction issues),
  • improving or defending front line health services and
  • resisting development that are seen to threaten existing conditions of health (roads, waste facilities, gentrification).

This has occurred around a myriad of issues, at vastly different scales. A multitude of tactics have been deployed (including protest, tactical urbanism, community development, strikes, citizen science and professional advocacy. Outcomes have had varied degrees of success and also unintended outcomes.

We are using the term ‘urban health activism’ at this stage to encompass a range of activist based actions, which may or may not explicitly reference health outcomes; but whose goals, if met, will improve the ability of a the built environment to support people’s health. Such examples of ‘urban health activism’ can provide a crucial nexus of action for urban change, and one that is often overlooked in research and practice which often displays too much deference to the formal arenas of politics, policy and resource allocation.

Cities & Health seeks to encourage increased awareness and interest in the contribution, challenges and opportunities of urban health activism and its role in health city futures. We are therefore annoucing a Special Issue that seeks to explore the role and concept of urban health activism and the conditions in which it can act as a catalyst for change across different communities of practice.

  • What are the challenges and opportunities presented by different forms of dissent (research-activism, practitioner-activism, community-activism, or other typologies)?

  • What are the barriers to effective urban health activism, and how can the demands of such movements be better reflected in ‘official’ urban health initiatives?

  • What are the interesting or outstanding case studies of urban health activism and what do they tell us?

  • How does urban health activism confront formal power structures effectively, and generate power for itself?

  • How does urban health activism effectively operate at different spatial scales, from neighbourhood action to international policy advocacy?

The journal encourages a range of types of submission (which can be seen here) and would welcome examples of original scholarship, reflective practice and case studies on the topic of urban health activism. We also encourage contributions on a wider variety of topics, including struggles over living conditions, community defensive action, citizen science, health services or any other issues that provides insights into the value and challenges of activism.

This project is being initiated by Geraint Ellis and Marcus Grant who are both on the board of Cities & Health. We will be developing what we hope to be a global guest editorial team for the special issue. We welcome comments to help develop and consolidate this call, and also to hear from those who may want to be formally or informally involved. Email Geraint Ellis at g.ellis@qub.ac.uk. 

Cities & Health has been established to support human and planetary health by sharing the international research and practice for urban health and health equity. Our mission is to provide practitioners, researchers and communities with a platform to share, discuss problems to shape solutions from a spatial planning, urban design and physical city governance perspective. 
For more information please visit www.tandfonline.com/rcah.

We are interested in collecting a wide variety of resources and case studies, please let us know if you have any:

Natures Keepers: Geraint Ellis – YouTube – In this six minute video Geraint explains some of the background to the conflict in place development between private and public ‘goods’, and the role that the planning system should be playing. This video was made by Northern Ireland Friends of the Earth.

Natures Keepers: Sharon Morrow – YouTube – This five minute video Sharon describes the fight against a local dump in a beautiful natural ecosystem by a group of dedicated local campaigners. Inspiring – ‘it’s right to fight’. This video was made by Northern Ireland Friends of the Earth.

These are just our first two, so not at all representative of what we want this initiative to grow into. In particular they focus on the rural dimension and are both from Northern Ireland. If you have links to add to help extend the range, please email us.