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Publication Detail
Urban decision making for health and sustainability in China: a preliminary reflection on fieldnotes from Beijing and Ningbo
  • Publication Type:
    Conference presentation
  • Authors:
    Niu Y, Pineo H, Hale J, Zhou K, Wilkinson P, Davies M, Liu Q
  • Date:
  • Name of Conference:
    Planetary Health Alliance Annual Meeting 2019
  • Conference place:
    Stanford University, California
  • Conference start date:
  • Conference finish date:
  • Keywords:
    Urban governance, Health, Sustainability, China
Background: Rapid economic development in China comes along with urbanization and associated challenges of population growth, climate change, air pollution, and urban congestion. With a focus on sustainability and health in urbanization, policies such as Healthy China 2030 and Five Year Plans of China provided decision-making guidance to address these challenges at national and city levels. The aim of this study is to explore urban stakeholders’ decision-making priorities, processes, and use of evidence in Beijing and Ningbo. The study is part of the Complex Urban Systems for Sustainability and Health (CUSSH) project, which aims to assist decision-makers and the public to identify and progress initiatives that afford the greatest opportunities for health and sustainability. This research is a preliminary exploration of the urban governance in two Chinese cities regarding this topic. Methods: Beijing and Ningbo are cities in the north and south of China and in inland and coastal areas, respectively. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with stakeholders from diverse governance backgrounds. Eleven interview questions spanned three research areas : 1) stakeholders’ mental models of urban sustainability and health, and their decision-making priorities; 2) the use of scientific evidence in decision-making; and 3) stakeholder’s perception of and advice to the CUSSH project in China. Participants included academic researchers, representatives from community service centers, municipal administration agencies, primary care doctors, and individuals in governance and policy leadership positions. Their areas of expertise included climate change, water, soil and air pollution, public health and epidemiology, general practice medicine, economic development, and waste management. The recruitment of participants was led by researchers from Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and facilitated by Beijing and Ningbo. Individual and group interviews were conducted at CDC offices and at site. Participants were interviewed individually (approximately 60 mins) or in small groups (approximately 90 mins). Translators facilitated interviews where necessary. Interviews were audio-recorded and are currently under transcription and analysis. The findings presented here are a preliminary analysis from field notes and group reflections recorded by the interview team (YN, HP, JH, KZ). Preliminary Reflections: Twenty-three interviewees participated, with twelve from Beijing and eleven from Ningbo. Most interviewees mentioned that top-down decision-making is a fundamental path of addressing urban issues with the complex relationship between health and sustainability. Moreover, interviewees suggested that collaboration between multiple departments of the government is of significance during this process and needs to be strengthened further. Challenges of collaboration were also mentioned due to distinction in duty and responsibility of municipal departments. For the decision-making process, it was reported that city residents’ concerns of urban issues such as air pollution influenced decision-makers prioritization process. It was also reported that residents tend to focus more on “visible” urbanization problems such as air pollution in Beijing and river pollution in Ningbo. A few participants with academic backgrounds stressed the important role of scientific evidence in policy formulation and information gaps between policy-makers and researchers. Further in-depth qualitative analysis of the stakeholder interview transcripts (in progress) will provide insights into processes of decision-making and urban governance for health and sustainability in the context of Chinese cities, as well as a reference for other countries with similar context. Understanding how the stakeholders identify priorities and make policies will be beneficial to further explore the decision-making in health and sustainability, and further understand how to facilitate the use of evidence and collaboration through transformative actions in cities.
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