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Children’s Health in Cities in Focus at Uppsala Health Summit

Press release   •   Apr 29, 2019 08:47 BST

By 2050, around 70 per cent of the world’s children will live in cities. During the high-level meeting Uppsala Health Summit this autumn, international experts from different sectors will gather to discuss how to plan cities and strengthen public health strategies to better care for children’s health and wellbeing in all parts of the world.

Cities can offer opportunities and access that help children thrive and develop. However, many aspects of urban life threaten children’s physical and mental health. In poor and wealthy areas alike, an increasing number of children lack access to clean air, and to safe spaces for play, physical activity and relaxation. Many suffer from mental ill health. Even in Sweden, a country that once set an example of healthy outdoor environments for children, priorities for urban planning are changing: school playgrounds are shrinking as the price of land increases. Instead of building for a sustainable future and the Agenda 2030 goals, health risks are being built in which future generations will have to pay for.
What are the costs associated with excluding the children’s perspective when planning cities and societies? How can children’s rights to participation and equal health be strengthened? These are some of the questions Uppsala Health Summit will address.

The meeting seeks to discover how knowledge from research and innovations can promote greater consideration for the children’s perspective in city planning and public health. It also aims to create national and international collaborations to carry these suggestions forward. The conference will take place at Uppsala Castle and is intended for decision-makers and specialists in city planning, strategic planning, public health and schools.

“The choices we make today will influence generations of children and young people, their health, physical wellbeing, cognitive abilities and social competencies. We don’t have time to wait for new knowledge about the long-term socioeconomic effects of insufficient space for children to play, socialise and move freely. We need to act now and make use of existing practical solutions that benefit both children and adults,” says Petter Åkerblom, Uppsala Health Summit Programme Committee Chair and Senior Lecturer in Landscape Architecture at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU).

The programme will cover different aspects of children’s health in urban environments and contribute perspectives and experiences from different parts of the world and different sectors, such as research, industry and policy-making. Workshop themes range from how to reduce childhood obesity through better collaboration within municipalities, how to measure intra-urban health inequalities, how to provide for better access to nature and animals, how to create better play value and opportunities for physical exercise, and how to plan cities for free mobility and safety, to how children’s own viewpoints on their urban space can be turned to account in a meaningful way.

Roger Madelin of British Land, who is currently leading the re-development of the Canada Water area in central London, will speak in plenary, along with Dr Tim Gill – a well-known lecturer and advisor on children’s play and free mobility. Dr Graham Alabaster, Chief of Sanitation and Waste Management at UN-HABITAT, will also participate, as will Dr Fiona Bull, who is leading the WHO’s efforts to establish guidelines for physical activity, and Jens Aerts, who is UNICEF’s specialist on urban planning and child rights.

For more information, please contact Kerstin Stewart, Project Manager for Uppsala Health Summit, Uppsala University, tel: +46 (0)70 4250138, email:, or Anneli Waara, press officer, tel: +46 (0)70 4250718, email:

Uppsala Health Summit is an annual international meeting for dialogue on how to make better use of research results and innovations for better health care and health globally. 150 delegates from around the world are invited to participate. The meeting is organised by Uppsala University, the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), the Swedish Medical Products Agency, the National Veterinary Institute, Uppsala Regional Council, Uppsala Monitoring Centre, the Swedish School of Sports and Health Sciences, and the network World Class Uppsala.