Systems approach of URban enviRonmEnts and heALth

Project Details


Population growth, energy use, mobility and urbanisation are all factors that impact health and mortality rates. Moreover, studies show that health deterioration is affected by socio-economic status, gender, age and ethnicity and that cities represent places where health issues abound. However, in cities there are more opportunities for structural transformations in lifestyle and health status. The EU-funded SURREAL project will deliver a unique, creative and single training network for 15 early-stage researchers to co-create an understanding of the urban health system's complexity and co-design and apply adequate interventions in the system. The project will draw upon interactions between academic disciplines such as epidemiology and public health and a wide range of entities such as medical centres, public authorities and NGOs.


Worldwide, the health status of people is increasingly put under pressure by demographic growth, primary energy uses, mobility and urbanization. Every year in EU countries on average more than 1.2 million people die prematurely. However, large disparities in life expectancy in terms of socio-economic status, gender, age and ethnicity exist. Especially, cities are creating the conditions for health problems, such as sedentary lifestyles, unhealthy diets, air and other pollutions and stress. On the other hand, cities also offer opportunities for structural and long-lasting healthy transformations in lifestyles and health status. However, the big question is how to achieve these transformations in a situation where complexity of urban health problems is increasing, involving many actors.

Increasingly, it is recognized that disciplinary and sectoral approaches no longer suffice but that an integrated, holistic approach toward the physical, social and institutional factors that shape urban health and health inequalities is necessary. In such a systems approach in research and policies on urban health, health is no longer emerging from isolated causal effects only but in addition from the (non)linear positive and negative feedback loops between the various features of a system over time.

Based on a systems approach and new alliances across academic disciplines (epidemiology, public health, movement science, psychology, geography, sociology) and sectors (citizens, entrepreneurs, medical centers, public authorities, NGOs) SURREAL offers a unique, creative and single training network for 15 Early Stage Researchers (ESRs) to co-create joint understandings of the complex urban health system and to co-design and implement effective interventions in the system. Equipped with this expertise and supported by innovative training formats, such as Collaborative Learning in Practice, SURREAL trains the next generation of professionals in urban health.
Effective start/end date1/01/2131/12/24


  • European Commission


  • Systems approach
  • Exposures to environments
  • Social inequality
  • Physical activity
  • Diet
  • Mental stress
  • Co-creation
  • Interventions
  • Interdisciplinarity
  • Intersectoral
  • Sensors
  • Virtual reality