Patricia Romero Lankao, Joshua Sperling & Daniel Runfola, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO, USA

Presentation Title: Exploring health risks in urban Latin America and Asia



This presentation analyzed if, and under what circumstances, urban populations experience risk in Mumbai, India; Bogota, Colombia; Mexico City, Mexico; Santiago, Chile; and Buenos Aires, Argentina. It suggested an integrated approach to the interaction between hazard-risks and vulnerability of urban populations under multiple stresses and assessed their adaptation capacity, i.e., ability to perceive and respond to hazards. Finally, it explored whether or not urban risk depends on scale, and if hazards, adaptation capacities, responses and their underlying societal and physical drivers vary across urban households, neighborhoods and cities.

Key Lessons Learned

  • Scale matters in the study of urbanization and risk.
  • The level of urbanization is not only correlated with coping and sensitivity, but also the rates at which countries are urbanizing, i.e., rapidly urbanizing countries experience higher levels of vulnerability.
  • Urban vulnerability and risk varies at the spatial/temporal scale, but also with the analytical dimensions selected for analyzing the process.
  • If studies focus on the national level only, the potential data from ethnographic work can be overlooked.

Policy/Practice Implications of Research

  • Understanding specific hazards and actions taken at various scales, e.g., household level, neighborhood, and city/regional level, provides richer insight into more comprehensive policy options.
  • A greater understanding of determinants of capacity, which vary with scale, and actions, which are based not only on access to assets and options, but also physical/environmental conditions, can reduce maladaptive approaches.

Knowledge Gaps and Needs

  • Although communities often have portfolios of strategies against hazards, actions at the neighborhood level need further study, in order to enhance the capacity of communities to respond and adapt.
  • The development and research into robust city-wide actions.
  • Informality is a city-wide political power issue that defines legality, which needs further research, as it is a key determinant of risk and vulnerability and effectiveness of actions that people take against threats to which they are exposed.
  • Further unpacking of concepts like ‘transformation’ is needed.