Roundtable with Columbia academics and Brazilian specialists addresses new horizons on Public Health

March 18, 2016

The roundtable Future Cities + Health, held on March 15th at the Columbia Global Centers | Rio de Janeiro, brought together specialists in the field of Public Health to address the biggest demands of global cities. Two researchers from Columbia University - Linda Fried, Dean of Mailman School of Public Health, and Gina Lovasi, assistant professor in Epidemiology at the same school - and two representatives of Fundação Oswaldo Cruz, a Brazilian biomedical scientific institution - Martha Barata, strategic advisor, and Wilson Savino, director - composed the roundtable. Thomas Trebat, director of Columbia Global Centers | Rio de Janeiro, moderated the debate.

Led by three main guidelines - future health needs, mitigation of health threats and harm prevention, and health data sharing and collection optimization - the debate created the opportunity to think collectively of new possibilities for public health in a broader scope - taking into account factors directly related to the urban growth phenomenon, such as traffic jam, air pollution and high demographic density.

Columbia professors discussed their current research projects within the public health context. Dean Linda Fried, whose research focuses on the aging phenomenon in the cities, pointed to the need of designing new strategies for a city that is getting older. She also stressed the changes should not be about finding ways of living longer, but doing so in a healthier and more functional way - which reinforces the need of investing in health since the younger generations. Professor Gina Lovasi, who leads a study on health conditions in Rio das Pedras (a poor community in Rio de Janeiro), argued the importance of developing new methodologies and diagnosing health needs in poor areas as a path of bringing up innovative solutions.

As alternatives for better addressing public health issues that highlighted in the event, an important step that must be taken is building the bridge between research and practice. According to Betina Durovni, Deputy Secretary of Health for the city of Rio, and Primary Care specialist, it is fundamental to study and answer the issues simultaneously in order not to misinterpret the real problems and to fully respond to the real demands. FioCruz Strategic Advisor and Urban Climate Change Research Network member Martha Barata stressed the need of indicators that offer a better feedback on how effective the methodologies used nowadays are. She also supported the relevance of smaller and more simple collaboration initiatives - rather than ambitious ones - on producing more concrete impacts on society. For Mr. Savino, FioCruz Director, in order to avoid doing science for “the mirror”, the goal, otherwise, must be producing good science and take it to the society in a higher scale.