Investing in science-based solutions to improve health and well-being in urban areas

News release

July 5, 2021 – Ottawa, Ontario – Canadian Institutes of Health Research

Over 80 per cent of Canadians lives in cities. We know that our health depends on environmental factors such as air quality, transportation options, and access to healthy food, green space, safe and affordable housing, and social services. However, there are still gaps in our knowledge about which solutions work best, for whom, and why. By studying these solutions and their use in real-world conditions, we can build our understanding of how to improve population health, well-being, and health equity.

Today, the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health, and the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, announced an investment of $4.95 million over six years in a new research training platform so that we can bridge these gaps in our understanding. This platform will guide the development of a new generation of health, social sciences and humanities, engineering and natural sciences researchers, to find ways to make Canadian cities healthier, more livable, and more resilient.

The Implementing Smart Cities Interventions to Build Healthy Cities (SMART) Training Platforms led by Dr. David Ma at the University of Guelph, Dr. Laurette Dubé at McGill University, and Dr. Miyoung Suh at the University of Manitoba. These researchers and their team of collaborators will develop a curriculum to equip trainees at 10 institutions across the country with the knowledge and skills to tackle many of the challenges faced in urban environments. The trainees will engage in implementation science; that is, examining how a particular practice works by testing it in the real world and understanding how it can be best used in different regions, under different conditions, and with different populations.

The SMART Training Platform builds on three Smart Cities proposals from the cities of Guelph, Montreal and the Opaskwayak Cree Nation. It will play a vital role in bringing together various components of CIHR's Healthy Cities Research Initiative (HCRI) and building a community of practice around implementing, developing and evaluating urban solutions that achieve positive health and well-being outcomes in ways that are impactful, sustainable, and equitable.


"Each community is different, but we all need the same things to be healthy – things like clean air, healthy food, and a safe place to call home. Through this funding, city planners can find the right tools and implement the best policies to give people living in urban areas reliable and secure access to healthy options, improving health outcomes in Canada and around the globe."
The Honourable Patty Hajdu
Minister of Health

"Ensuring the long-term health and safety of Canadian cities, across dimensions, is our top priority. Investing in this new platform will help us develop innovative solutions to help strengthen the resiliency, sustainability and well-being of our communities. It will also allow us to find important and equitable ways to build a greener future for cities across Canada."
The Honorable François-Philippe Champagne
Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry

"We are incredibly excited about the opportunity to train the next generation of leaders in implementation science at the same time as we support major investments moving knowledge into action. Funding from the Health Cities Research Initiative will enable our network to develop a unique training program with a thematic focus on the central place of food in healthy cities, the use of 'big data' to create smart solutions for urban environments, and bringing together the best knowledge, practices and tools from different fields of study to find solutions to complex problems."
Dr. David Ma
Professor, University of Guelph

"Cities have immense power and opportunities to create healthier environments for their citizens. CIHR is proud to work with NSERC and SSHRC to fund the first-ever tri-agency training platform that is focused on implementing solutions – in cities and across sectors – for the benefit of all."
Dr. Steven Hoffman
Scientific Director of the CIHR Institute of Population and Public Health

"The Healthy Cities Research Training Platform is an excellent example of how drawing expertise from social sciences and humanities can bring forward solutions to complex research challenges. I am excited to see how these collaborations between research teams from different disciplines can help people by allowing them to make better choices and lead healthier lives."
Dr. Ted Hewitt
President, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council

"NSERC is pleased to contribute to the Healthy Cities Research Training Platform. We see a key role for natural science and engineering researchers in exploring how we can improve the urban fabric and infrastructure to make our cities healthier. Moreover, the students they train will play a role in putting this new knowledge into practices across the country."
Dr. Alejandro Adem
President, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council

Quick facts

  • SMART Training Platform is a component of the CIHR-led Healthy Cities Research Initiative, a 10-year, $43 million+ research and training program designed to maximize the health-promoting potential of cities and urbanized areas in Canada and internationally.

  • The Platform will play a key role by leveraging the different components of the Healthy Cities Research Initiative to deliver inter-disciplinary training and mentoring to the next generation of researchers focused on designing and building healthy cities.

  • There are 10 research institutions and several partner organizations participating in and supporting the Platform:

    • University of Guelph
    • McGill University
    • University of Manitoba
    • University of Waterloo
    • Université Laval
    • Université de Montreal
    • University of Toronto
    • University of Ottawa
    • Dawson College
    • Université de Sherbrooke
    • City of Montreal
    • City of Guelph
    • Opaskwayak Cree Nation
    • Conseil du Systeme Alimentair Montrealais
    • Innovation Guelph
    • Recolte
    • Open North
    • WDG Public Health
    • PHAC Centre for Surveillance and Applied Research
    • Montreal Regional Public Health Directorate
  • The investment in the Healthy Cities Research Training Platform is made possible through financial contributions from three federal granting agencies: the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), which are each contributing one-third of the funding for the Platform.


Thierry Bélair
Office of the Honourable Patty Hajdu
Minister of Health

Media Relations
Canadian Institutes of Health Research

At the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) we know that research has the power to change lives. As Canada's health research investment agency, we collaborate with partners and researchers to support the discoveries and innovations that improve our health and strengthen our health care system.

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