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As part of the Global Health International Advisors (GHIA) Conference Series, on April 24, 2014 Dr. Castillo-Salgado, Professor of Epidemiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health offered an interactive talk on Urban Health Observatories and how they bring to light health inequities within cities and neighborhoods. The event was held at GHIA facilities at the Organization of American States Building, Washington, D.C.

The conference PowerPoint slides are available here

Castillo-Salgado opened his talk introducing the London, Kobe, Johns Hopkins and Brazilian Observatories highlighting their use of new methodologies and metrics which offer disaggregated data that help focalized interventions. Current conventional health research centers, he suggested, use data in the form of averages providing aggregate information that is not very useful to City Mayors and/or public health authorities. Current and new Public Health Observatories are in need for more operational research and problem solving strategies. The new guideline developed with the WHO’s Kobe Centre offers important recommendations for developing strategic public health intelligence to meet local health needs.

Castillo-Salgado explained how new public health observatories make visible the health inequalities within and between neighborhoods and localities while current traditional research centers working with city or global averages hide them. He illustrated his point explaining that in the City of Baltimore there are several neighborhoods have a life expectancy of 59 years while others have a life expectancy of 75 or more years. The Hopkins’s Observatory in Baltimore takes into consideration these differences to recommend interventions more equity- focalized and effective. “There is plenty of available evidence not being used and about 70% of data used is too generic and therefore not useful for decision making” indicated Castillo-Salgado.

Considering that in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) 70% of the population is urban and that urban populations vary considerably in a little as within one kilometer. He underlined the need to offer disaggregated data and to discontinue the use in traditional research centers that continue to use obsolete metrics (i.e. averages without full population distributions) as it is a major limitation for problem solving and address social health inequalities. Observatories can and should incorporate disaggregated data to ensure that the information provided is relevant to guide equity- focalized health interventions. Cities that continue to use aggregated data run the risk of widening the inequality gap rather than narrowing it.

Castilllo-Salgado, with the support of Johns Hopkins, coordinates both the Baltimore Observatory and Brooklyn Hospital Center’s Situation Room. These, he said, were developed utilizing the tools of the London Observatory and that the Baltimore Observatory is the first of its kind in the USA. The presentation was followed by a very lively and participatory Q&A session. Attendants included PAHO staff especially from the Health Analysis Unit, members of the Rockefeller Foundation and members of GHIA –all three institutions work to address health inequities.

Read more on the topic at this link: Providing health intelligence to meet local needs: a practical guide to serving local and urban communities through public health observatories. This guide is unique in that it provides detailed guidance on what is needed to ensure success of a local observatory. It has been prepared for all stakeholders interested in developing and expanding their own local health observatories.

Related readings at this link:: www.cultureofhealthequity.org (see the Bellagio Report and Call to Action on the Social Determinants of Migrant Health)


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