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Cross-sectoral approaches for healthier cities

Cities are now the dominant human habitat, housing 54% of the world’s population and 75% of Malaysians. Yet despite economic and technological progress, intractable urban health problems persist, particularly for disadvantaged groups. These problems are often the result of decisions made in other sectors such as housing or transportation. Identifying linkages between health and physical, social and ecological environments can lead to better understanding of cross-sectoral impacts and healthier, greener, more equitable cities.

The Newton-Ungku Omar Fund supported the SCHEMA project, which includes expertise in systems and place-based methods, urban planning, and public health, to examine the interlinked systems that impact urban health in Malaysia. A primary focus has been a series of workshops bridging disciplines and sectors and focusing on green infrastructure and food systems in relation to urban health. These workshops have nurtured networks of policy makers, practitioners, academics, community leaders and civil society representatives around urban health and sustainability challenges. 

Participants have generated a diversity of new initiatives, focused on issues such as river restoration, walkability, food systems, and indigenous knowledge, and have begun to apply project methodologies in their own work. The Penang Green Council has adapted the SCHEMA workshop approach in an initial scoping meeting for a Penang Green Agenda oriented toward achieving environment-related Sustainable Development Goals. A series of case studies is being developed to guide new partners in applying the approaches. 


"This project innovatively joins cross-national expertise linking systems and place-based approaches, so as to catalyze and inform decision-making for progressing urban health and SDGs, while developing local research and professional capacity. “

Professor Terry Marsden


  Systems Thinking and Place Based Methods for Healthier Malaysian Cities (SCHEMA)
  Lead PI: Professor Terry Marsden, Cardiff University Sustainable Places Research Institute,                       UK
  Lead PI: Dr Jose Siri, United Nations University International Institute for Global Health,                             Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  Project partners: British Council
                               Malaysian Industry Government Group for High Technology, Malaysia