Exercise station in Comuna 13, Medellin
Communities, accessibility and healthy living in Itagüí
Health and Wellbeing


Adequate access to health and well-being will be key in creating sustainable cities in the near future. As countries’ incomes and urban populations grow, non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, stroke, dementia and diabetes - all already in the top 10 global causes of deaths - will continue to rise.

Urban environments with high levels of air pollution and low access to green space and less opportunities for physical activity will need to provide not only universal access to healthcare but also adequate environments for healthy living to city dwellers. Since this will be harder to achieve with some populations more than others, new tools to close these inequity gaps will be crucial.

One of these struggling groups in Latin America, where income and gender inequalities are among the highest in the world, are low-income single mothers. These women’s working conditions are often inflexible, their evening -time mobilities are restricted due to personal safety concerns and taking public transport often involves experiencing of sexual harassment.  Access to healthy, affordable spaces for exercise, leisure and general wellbeing is therefore very limited.


This two-year research project will study accessibility to healthy living among low-income single mothers in Itagüí under a strongly collaborative framework that incorporates environmental variables in novel ways. We aim to develop an accessibility model with inputs and collaboration from local uncertified experts, people working in the public sector, and academics in order to understand the role existing transport options play in how these communities access healthy living.

The project asks three overarching questions:

  • How can co-production be used to create a model of accessibility to healthy living that is sensitive to the local urban context and can also be applied elsewhere?
  • What role can low-cost personal air pollution monitors play in informing policy, modelling accessibility, and empowering citizens to reduce pollution exposure?
  • What are the main determinants of low-income single mothers’ accessibility to healthy living in Itagüí 

As part of our project we will work with local communities to define the main issues around accessing a healthy living that we wish to tackle, involve participants in all the research stages, and will co-create spaces for dialogue, capacity training, and knowledge exchange. Our project will communicate our findings with different audiences through art exhibitions, online technical tools, academic papers, and policy papers.