The First Annual Healthy Cities Conference

About the Conference

In November 2022, we hosted the First Annual Healthy Cities conference in Ottawa, Ontario. Focusing on the central place of food in cities, we discussed key topics such as the use of ‘big data’ to create smart solutions for urban environments, relevant challenges Indigenous communities face, and the many facets of the circular economy in cities of the future. Our goal was to expand the understanding of implementation science and explore how to build and support healthy cities through research excellence, capacity building and knowledge mobilization.

The program began with a welcome and announcement from the Healthy Cities Research Initiative. The Chief Scientific Officer Dr.Christian Baron and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health, Adam van Koeverden joined us to announce their research investment in healthier, more equitable communities.

We welcomed the six winning teams both in person and virtually to receive the live announcement of the Government of Canada’s investment of $27 million to support six research teams that are studying how to make Canada’s cities healthier, more equitable places to live. Read the official announcement from the Canadian Institute of Health Research here!

We had the pleasure of welcoming speakers and panellists from across the world as we broke down silos to explore the many facets of healthy cities. Each session was anchored by a keynote speaker with a panel of stakeholders from research, academia, government sector, non-for-profit, and industry to round out the conversation.

About Our Sessions

Sessions One: Bringing the Convergence-by-Design Approach to Life: Food as Entry Point for Digital-Powered Convergence Innovation and System Transformation in Science, Economy, and Society

Building upon the most advanced health implementation sciences, the SMART training platform set the next frontier with its unique convergence-by-design approach to science, technology, and innovation. The approach is person-centric, digital-powered, and takes a whole-of-society perspective. It positions the person at the centre of the systems of systems that create contexts at community, city, provincial, national and global level. It is a meta-innovation – an innovation in the way we innovate, embedding the research in real-time into real-world individual and collaborative solutions to transform science, economy and society. A short briefing will take food as entry point to discuss challenges and possibilities in the broader context of all dimensions of a person’s thriving and healthy life and the digital-powered multi-sector engagement that only can sustain it for all.

Session Two: Indigenous Health and Healthy Communities as Entry Point for Societal-Scale Innovation and System Transformation

Dietary choices and food security are the major stumbling blocks in achieving a healthy community, leading to negative health issues in the Indigenous communities. This session will be solution-based approaches on food security by discussing the land based Indigenous food systems, and employment of high technology in agriculture for SMART production in the Indigenous communities. Further SMART food distribution and SMART health and economic monitoring require system approaches, thus how co-creating knowledge for system changes in the indigenous communities will be brought by panels.

Session Three: Integrative Big Data, AI and Computing Architecture for Healthy City as Entry Point for a Healthy World: Building an Ecosystem of Digital Twins to Accelerate Real-World Solutions

For many decades now, digital twins for physical objects have enabled the design, test, manufacture and use of their digital version to understand their use in context, the forces at play, the failure risks, etc. This session will propose that a similar approach applied in a modular and distributed manner to society as a whole can inform Healthy City initiatives worldwide. Taking Montreal as entry point, the session will report on the early development of the digital ecosystem “SynthEco” which utilizes statistically representative synthetic populations derived from Census data for a given geospatial granularity as the anchor to create a complex digital ecosystem to analyse individual human behaviour within their environment and, in turn, the decision making and practice of profession, organization, and institution that define this environment. Discussion will bear on challenges and possibilities in accelerating real-world solution to many complex challenges facing traditional and modern society worldwide.

Session Four: Circular Economy and Healthy Cities

This session will highlight the role of the circular economy in support of healthy and smart cities initiatives. The circular economy is more than just about recycling materials but a different way to view how we take, make and use the world around us.  The Our Food Future Initiative in the City of Guelph and County seeks to enhance the ways in which nutritious food is accessed, economic opportunities to stimulate business growth by incorporating circular economy principles in business practices and to reduce food waste from farm to plate. Additional facets of healthy cities ranging from housing, social and business perspectives will be shared by panellists.

Great opportunity to learn about examples of true interdisciplinary healthy cities research and practice. I thought it was a good size for mingling and networking, and having a chance to see most if not all of the posters. Sessions were interesting. Nice to meet people outside of just virtual.

It was very well organized, and the posters were fascinating. I liked the range of speakers and how well each session still created a cohesive theme.

I appreciated the opportunity to meet individuals I had previously taken the methods course with/learned from in-person. I also appreciated the opportunity to share my research to a wider audience of people (i.e., individuals from other academic institutions and government agencies)

Thank you to the Muesum of Nature for hosting the event in their beautiful space. The SMART Training Platform is proudly supported by CIHR-NSERC-SSHRC funding.

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