Why ‘TRUUD’ and why now?
TRUUD is a five year research programme that aims to Tackle Root Causes Upstream of Unhealthy Urban Development, in other words, it is trying to make health – for people and the planet – a priority for key decision-makers when developing our towns and cities.
Our first blog What are Non-Communicable Diseases and why are they an urban problem? outlined why this work is so urgently needed. We highlighted how poor development in towns and cities across the UK are failing to create healthy homes and places. This, in turn, increases the risk of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as cancers, diabetes, respiratory diseases and mental health. We also highlighted the increasing health inequalities that exist between different people in society.
Here we will set out what the TRUUD research programme is about: why are we looking ‘upstream’ at ‘root causes’; what research are we undertaking; what are the timelines and who is involved?
How ‘upstream’ factors can increase the risk of non-communicable diseases and health inequalities
Why look upstream?
The relationships between the urban environment, NCDs and health inequalities are many and complex. A three-year pilot research project, UPSTREAM, helped to shape the plan for the TRUUD project, and identified hundreds of potential factors that industry experts suggest contribute to poor urban environments, listed under eight main themes:
The detailed findings from the UPSTREAM pilot can be found here.
Working together to address the root causes
There is no “silver bullet” solution to tackle urban-related NCDs. It is a problem that exists across the complex range of systems, people and processes. There is a need to better understand how to intervene, to work in a more coordinated way with a wide range of stakeholders involved in urban planning and development. We particularly want to engage with those affected (citizens, especially those suffering from poor quality environments) and those affecting those areas (e.g. city leaders, policy-makers, investors, developers, landowners). The aim of TRUUD is to build on the early UPSTREAM work, to develop and test effective interventions in this space.
TRUUD is drawing on expertise from numerous academic disciplines, including: public health, economics, real estate, law, public policy, urban planning, corporate governance, management, systems engineering, social and behavioural sciences. Researchers from five universities (Bath, Bristol, Manchester, Reading, and UWE) are working in partnership with Bristol City Council and Greater Manchester Combined Authority, representatives from local communities and expert advisors to test the solutions we develop.
The trans-disciplinary nature of TRUUD research
The primary areas of TRUUD’s research include:
Engagement and systems mapping: To engage a wide range of people – public, private, third sector and local citizens – via hundreds of interviews, workshops and other events, to map and understand the systems of urban development decision-making in two cities and sectors: transport at the city-region level (Greater Manchester) and large-scale property development at the city-level (Bristol).
Intervention co-production: To work with stakeholders to identify a range of potential areas where we might intervene in that decision-making. To co-produce and test intervention and evaluation frameworks, using economic modelling, corporate governance mechanisms, prototyping and drawing on community-based experiences of NCDs and health inequalities.
Knowledge exchange: Building on the research findings to deliver a series of highly impactful knowledge exchange activities with a broad range of users and advisors to ensure lasting health improvements beyond the five-year research programme.
How can you help?
TRUUD involves a consortium of five universities (Bath, Bristol, Manchester, Reading, and UWE) working together to develop prototype solutions that will promote healthier urban development. We are working in partnership with stakeholders in Bristol City Council, Greater Manchester Combined Authority and other organisations in Greater Manchester and Bristol to design solutions that will work in practice.
If you would like to get involved and support this vital work, please contact us here.