New book reviews best practices for conducting global health research in urban slums

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By: Robert E. Snyder, PhD, MPH

Berkeley, CA, Nov 2, 2016

On a planet of growing cities, one of the greatest challenges facing our survival is the health and well-being of the most vulnerable urban residents who live in slums, whose population is estimated to have reached 1 billion in 2015. These slum dwellers face a number of challenges for basic survival and health.

A new book edited by UC Berkeley Professors Jason Corburn (City and Regional Planning/Public Health) and Lee Riley (Public Health) explores the challenges facing slum health, and strategies to improve the lives and living conditions of populations living in these human settlements in three regions of the world—India, Kenya, and Brazil—each representing the distinct slum health problems of their respective continents.

Riley says that, “The aim of this book is to offer a set of in-depth descriptions of how action-oriented research contributes to addressing the multi-dimensional issue of health inequities in the rapidly expanding informal settlements of the world and what governments, civil society, donor organizations, and researchers can do to improve slum health.”

A major theme of the book is the coproduction of knowledge and interventions alongside residents of these vulnerable communities. Riley and Coburn highlight the need for residents to participate in the technical and political processes that deliver immediate services and address urgent health needs, but also contribute to the decentralization of state and professional institutions to “ensure greater long-term resident control over resources and decision-making.” It also emphasizes the importance of an interdisciplinary approach used to understand the biology (“the cell”) of slum health as well as the socioeconomic, anthropologic, and environmental determinants (“the street”) of slum health.

A consortium of universities, including UC Berkeley are leading the way in training researchers to engage with vulnerable communities and encourage this bidirectional exchange of knowledge. The NIH/Fogarty International Center-sponsored Global Health Equity Scholars (GHES) program brings together these US-based institutions as well as researchers at 31 affiliated international sites across 23 countries. The 2016 application cycle closes December 1, 2016. See for application instructions.

Please join Professors Riley and Corburn on Tuesday November 15 from 7-8:30 PM for an intimate book talk and book signing in the atrium of the Environmental Design Library (210 Wurster Hall).

Book ordering information: Available now in print and as an e-book, published by University of California Press, 2016 “Slum Health: From the Cell to the Street” ISBN: 978-0- 520-28107-3, softcover, 315 pages, List price: $34.95, plus shipping and handling. To order, A limited number of copies will be available at the event on 11/15.