Urbanization is one of the leading global trends of the 21st century that has a significant impact on health. Over 55% of the world’s population live in urban areas, a proportion that is expected to increase to 68% by 2050. As most future urban growth will take place in developing cities, the world today has a unique opportunity to guide urbanization and other major urban development trends in a way that protects and promotes health.
That is also because the health and well-being of their citizens is perhaps a city’s most important asset. Yet most of the 4.2 billion people living in cities – half of humanity – still suffer from inadequate transport and housing, poor sanitation and waste management, and air quality failing WHO guidelines. Other forms of pollution, such as noise, water and soil contamination, urban heat islands, and a dearth of public and open space for walking, cycling and active living also combine to make cities epicentres of the noncommunicable diseases epidemic and drivers of climate change.
At the same time, urban environments can also bring opportunities for better health and wellbeing, cleaner environment and climate action. Strong urban policies and interventions must match those challenges since health is also essential for fostering good urban livelihoods, building a productive workforce, creating resilient and vibrant communities, enabling mobility, promoting social interaction, and protecting vulnerable populations. The COVID-19 crisis has made even more evident the importance of urban environments for health and the need to preserve and advance on the positives that have emerged from the crisis, as we recover.
The Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health (ECH) acknowledges the importance of healthy urban environments for population and planetary health. The Department promotes interventions and initiatives for healthy sectoral policies (including transport, housing, energy, land-use, urban development, and water and sanitation), addressing key risks to health from poor urban environments in an integrated and systemic manner, also contributing to achieving multiple health, climate and environmental benefits, in line with the Organization’s 13th General Programme of Work, WHO’s Global Strategy on Health, Environment and Climate Change, and the Sustainable Development Goals.
As part of the Health and Urban Environment programme of work, ECH’s activities seek to improve public health, with a focus in low- and middle-income countries, through the sustained incorporation of health considerations on the planning, building, developing, running and maintaining of urban environments, including through activities aimed to:
· Increase awareness and build support among policymakers, implementing partners and the public about the environmental determinants of health in urban context, the interconnection with peri-urban and rural environments, the links with the social and economic determinants of health as well as on the effectiveness of policies and interventions to create and sustain healthier urban environments;
· Improve the knowledge base and strengthen the capacity of countries to identify and address the upstream determinants of health in the urban environment, considering its built and natural components, relevant settings (e.g. buildings; households; cities and settlements; green, blue and public spaces) and different scales (from the neighbourhood to the national level);
· Leverage the health argument, to strengthen the political and technical commitment and cooperation between the health and other related sectors to accelerate progress towards healthier urban environments;
· Provide technical support and develop guidance and implementation frameworks for assessing the health impacts of policies and interventions in sectors of the economy directly shaping urban environments, such as transport and land-use, among others, allowing for measurable health improvements in countries.
Purpose of the consultancy:
The main aims of this consultancy are to: (1) support the operational and technical work developed by ECH around healthy urban environments (2) technically support the development of the Health in Urban Planning Resource Directory, also incorporating the mapping of projects, tools and activities done by ECH’s technical units that are relevant for urban environments and/or local authorities; and (3) technically support the preparation and technical review of tools, documents, communication materials, guidelines and reports around healthy urban environment topics (i.e. strategic urban and territorial planning; transport, land-use and housing policies and interventions; climate change and environmental degradation; open and public spaces; and related health impacts and risks).
The consultant will be expected to perform the following tasks, in cooperation with and under the direct supervision of the WHO technical team:
· Provide strategic, technical and operational support to the work programme of Health and Urban Environment, including the finalization, implementation and monitoring of the Technical Products and their derivatives, resource mobilization, and relevant administrative processes.
· Provide technical inputs to outreach/advocacy activities of the Health and Urban Environments programme of work at various conferences (e.g. Second United Nations Global Sustainable Transport Conference, High-level Political Forum, COP26, World Urban Forum, International Conference on Urban Health), preparing related media materials, and supporting preparation and review of technical content of the Health and Urban Environment webpages.
· Technically support WHO’s work around strategic urban planning and health impact assessment related to activities aimed at strengthening the leadership role and functions of the health and other sectors to identify and address upstream determinants of health related to urban environments.
· Provide technical oversight and coordination for completing the development of the Health in Urban Planning Resource Directory, also incorporating the mapping of projects, tools and activities done by ECH’s technical units that are relevant for urban environments and/or local authorities.
· Contribute technically to the development of research activities related to healthy urban environments, including those related to WHO’s Urban Health Research Agenda.
· Contribute to technical work and products related to healthy urban environments, including reports, assessments, and funding proposals and reporting.
· Technically contribute to the preparation of healthy urban environment events (e.g. concept notes, outcome reports).
The World Health Organization Headquarters in Geneva now invites eligible individuals to indicate their interest in undertaking this work. Interested parties must provide relevant information indicating that they are qualified to perform the above tasks. The consultant will be selected through a competitive process in accordance with WHO’s operating policies and procedures on hiring consultants.
The expected start date of this full-time consultancy is October 2021 or subject to negotiation with the selected candidate, for an initial duration of two to three months in 2021 (depending on the start date) with the possibility of continuation in 2022. Due to the current pandemic situation, this will be a home-based consultancy and any necessary travel required will adhere to relevant travel guidance and restrictions.
The consultant will be remunerated at a daily rate that is commensurate with his/her experience and based on the UN common salary scale.
· A university degree in public health, natural sciences, geography, urban planning, environmental sciences/engineering or social sciences. Advanced university degree (e.g. Masters, PhD) is an advantage.
· Minimum of 3 years of experience working on issues related to healthy urban environments, with at least 2 at the international level.
· Strong understanding of the public health, environmental and development linkages to urban environments, ideally in relation to urban planning in its different scales, the health impacts of sectorial policies and interventions (e.g. land-use, transport) and relevant health outcomes in the urban context (e.g. NCDs, mental health, vector-borne diseases).
· Experience conducting mixed-methods research, narrative and systematic reviews, meta-analyses, evaluations of natural experiments or other research related to healthy urban environments.
· Experience working with countries and sub-national authorities in providing guidance and technical support for public health, ideally with issues related to healthy urban environments.
· Experience preparing technical documents, event concept notes, agendas, and proposals for different audiences (e.g. general public, policymakers) related to public health and broader sectoral cooperation.
· Familiarity with the UN system and its processes.
· Understanding of WHO’s norms and functions and its role in informing policy and research.
· Knowledge of ongoing health and urban environment initiatives and partners within and outside the Organization.
· Strong diplomacy and collaboration skills to work with partners and find common ground.
· Organized and ability to work independently.
· Capacity and flexibility to work under tight deadlines or changing priorities.
· Ability to work in a multicultural environment.
· Strong communication and outreach skills.
· Proficiency in Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel.
· Proficiency with Stata or R
· Ability to write in a clear and concise manner, and to present factual, evidence-based and data-driven information in English. Same ability in French or Spanish would be an advantage.
How to apply
Interested candidates are requested to send their curriculum vitae (2-page max) and a brief expression of interest (1-page max) to email@example.com as soon as possible and no later than 15 September, 2021. Please include in subject line: Healthy Urban Environments Consultancy EOI 2021. Please note that only selected candidates will be contacted for an interview or related follow-up.