Science meets imagination–cities and health in the twenty-first century
Övrig text i vetenskaplig tidskrift, 2017
Urbanism will be a dominant concern of policy-makers, planners, investors, researchers, businesses, governments and communities across the globe in coming decades. It has been projected that by 2050, up to 70% of the global population will live in urban areas. Cities and urban governance are being pushed to the forefront of both human and planetary health. Whether health and equity will be prioritised as a basis for decision-making is an open debate. Decisions–made or neglected today–will have impacts over time on human life and ecology, cities and health. Yet the processes of setting directions and making decisions are fraught. Life in urban contexts is complex and replete with uncertainties; the pace of change is rapid; values and long-range goals are contested; and information is incomplete or embodies various forms of bias. A new form of literacy is needed that can help us make decisions and act. Approaches to futures thinking are increasingly used at all levels and in diverse sectors to support decision-making, especially under conditions characterised by complexity. Methods are qualitative, quantitative or hybrid. They include visioning, Delphi studies, horizon scanning, scenarios, trend projection, modelling and backcasting. In combination, they often offer a systematic examination of alternative futures. This article explores the field of futures thinking in relation to cities and health. Importantly, it proposes a set of themes that will be the focus of a special issue of Cities & Health in 2019. These include the use of futures studies and foresight, the prospect of strengthening futures literacy, and the nature of policy-making and governance for improved population health within the developing global urban context.