(This project was modified in May 2020 to reflect the impact of COVID-19 on the community in Itagüí, the focus of the research)
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. Current social distancing responses to the COVID-19 pandemic are affecting this access in ways we don’t fully understand and affect some populations more than others. New tools to document and close these inequity gaps will be crucial to inform policy on how to build healthier cities.
Low-income women in Latin America are part of these struggling groups, due to already established social inequities. Some of these women’s working conditions are inflexible, evening -time mobilities are restricted due to personal safety concerns and taking public transport often involves experiencing of sexual harassment. Access to healthy and affordable diet, places to exercise, and health centres is therefore limited. Social distancing measures during the COVID-19 pandemic have been taken to reduce contagion, but little care has been taken to prevent these from exacerbating existing inequities.
This research project will study accessibility to healthy living among low-income women in Itagüí (Colombia) under a strongly collaborative framework that incorporates environmental variables in novel ways. We aim to develop an accessibility model with inputs and collaboration from a group of 40 local women, people working in three levels of government (local, metropolitan and national), and Colombian academics in order to understand the role existing transport options play in how these communities access healthy living and how social distancing measures affect this access.
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?
- How do social distancing measures taken during the COVID-19 pandemic affect low-income women’s access to healthy living?
- What role can low-cost personal air pollution monitors play in informing policy, modelling accessibility, and empowering citizens to reduce pollution exposure?
As part of our project we are working with local communities to define the main issues around accessing a healthy living during and after social distancing policies, 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 briefs.