Flagship 1

Urban Health and Demographic Change

Flagship 1 Urban Health and Demographic Change addresses major societal challenges related to health and well-being, demographic transitions and urban environment. An international community of researchers and academics from various medical and social science disciplines focuses on education and research activities on issues such as physiology, cancer, psychology, global health studies, urban studies, demography, geography and economics. The teaching and learning methods draw on innovative pedagogies to provide educational pathways that offer high-quality, research-based education, while fostering shared values, skills and competences, and open opportunities for learning pathways that allow students flexible choices from diverse educational activities.

Thematic focus on major societal challenges: Health and well-being, demographic change and urban environment

Flagship 1 Urban Health and Demographic Change addresses the interrelated issues of health, demographic and urban transformations. These areas and specifically their intersection represent the grand societal challenges and development objectives highlighted in the United Nations and the European Union policy agendas.

Health and well-being of population is significantly dependent on the living environment and trajectories of demographic change. Billions of people living in cities all over the globe suffer inadequate housing and transport, poor sanitation and waste management, contaminated water and soil, noise, polluted air and degraded environment. European cities struggle with housing affordability and social exclusion, accessibility of services, friendly infrastructures for walking and cycling, heat islands and other effects of climate change. The EU, national and local governments use measures to combat major societal challenges such as climate change, degradation of environment, security risks, increasing energy consumption and its costs, population ageing, international migration, cultural diversity, social inequalities and citizens heath, civilization diseases and threats of global pandemics.

In their effort to enhance sustainability and resilience, governments plead for Green City (functioning ecosystem services and maintained biodiversity), Just and Inclusive City (high standards of living and affordable housing) and Productive City (economic growth and employment in resilient economy). The key policy agendas include the adaptation to climate change, energy transition and carbon neutrality, circular economy, digital transformation, sustainable and efficient mobility, affordable housing and services for social and culturally diverse society or prevention of security risks. The accomplishment of these goals requires healthy populations living an active and productive life.

Cities and urban areas present not only challenges to health, specifically those related to civilization diseases and pandemics. They also offer opportunities for improved physical, mental, and social well-being. Beside the access to healthcare services supported by advance research, development and innovation ecosystems, these include social activities that support mental well-being and personal physical health and are related to education and employment, cultural activities and social networks, as well as access to social and transport services and to green and sport infrastructures.

While cities have the potential to utilize agglomeration mechanisms and offer a range of opportunities for population well-being, these are not developed in all urban areas equally to reflect the population need related to their demographic, social and cultural composition. Therefore, besides the general improvement of health and well-being, one of the major challenges is to focus on the most vulnerable populations and address disparities in access to these resources across different neighbourhoods. Addressing demographic and spatial disparities in health is an important step towards health and well-being in the whole society.

Research based education: Innovative, diverse and integrated learning

The adequate, timely and flexible policy response to the major and urgent societal challenges related to health and well-being, demographic change and urban environment requires internationally connected and organized research and education. Flagship 1 consists of a committed international community of scholars from various fields of medical and social science disciplines. The educational and research activities developed within Flagship 1 are both informed by, and, at the same time, they address these challenges and provide support for the policy reaction. They aim at the interconnected issues of the impacts of ageing population and urban life on healthcare demands as well as the potentials of urban environment to address the issues in the fields of demographic change, population health and well-being. Medical and social scientists and educators are united under the Flagship in order to come up with ideas and outputs to provide suggestions and recommendations for healthy urban environments.  

The engaged group of people forming the community of Flagship 1 offers educational projects focused on diverse issues such as physiology, cancer, psychology, global health studies, urban studies, demography, geography or economics. The teaching and learning employ innovative pedagogies with the emphasis on high quality research-based education, student-centered and student-driven inclusive education, critical thinking, social engagement, creativity and entrepreneurialism, data literacy and attention to multiculturalism and multilingualism. Innovative organizational and technical solutions support on-site and on-line teaching and learning and related virtual and physical mobility.

In Flagship 1 the major effort is devoted to the mutual integration and dynamic synergies among health, demography and urban environment. Although some of the educational activities are specifically focused on one of these themes, Flagship 1 aims at strengthening the relationships between the three themes, rather than envisaging their seclusion into independent pillars or thematic learning pathways.

The educational offerings consist of several types of educational activities, which vary by its complexity and length: short term 1-2 weeks events, such as workshops, one-semester courses, through modules, i.e., clusters of courses, to micro-degrees and complete study programmes. These educational activities are jointly delivered at a minimum of three 4EU+ member universities. They include various forms of mobility (short/long term, virtual, physical, combined) and forms of education (online, face-to-face, blended, synchronic, a-synchronic).

Educational and learning pathways: Synergies in education, flexibility in learning

The key objective of Flagship 1 is to contribute to educational pathways that offer high-quality, research-based education, while fostering shared values, skills and competences, and open opportunities for such learning pathways that allow for flexible choices from diverse high-quality educational activities. This way the Flagship contributes to the 4EU+ Alliance mission on the path towards a 4EU+ European University Campus through the internal transformation of member universities. In the frame of Flagship 1, this is pursued in the thematic field of urban health and demographic change.

Flagship 1 focuses on developing individual education elements, namely courses, seminars and summer schools that could be selected by students from their existing study programmes. The leadership and community of Flagship 1 made an effort to provide new elements for educational pathways that would enrich options within flexible learning pathways taken by individual students. Jointly provided and shared educational activities bring important synergies through the sharing of infrastructure, knowledge and expertise, human resources, values, methods and techniques. It furthermore contributes to shared, integrated and more complex focus on the provision and enhancement of learning competences, skills, values, methods, techniques, knowledge and practices. These synergies penetrate students’ learning pathways across participating universities.

The educational activities embed the 4EU+ emphasized shared values and competences (critical thinking, social engagement, data literacy, entrepreneurship, multilingualism) and use 4EU+ promoted innovative pedagogies, such as ABC LD method (Activity Based Curriculum Learning Design with its emphasis on learning outcomes and active learning through acquisition, inquiry/investigation, discussion, collaboration, practice and production).

Flagship 1 emphasizes the recognition of these new and innovative educational activities and their incorporation as regular parts of existing study programmes at the respective member universities. Through such a bottom-up approach, the Flagship aims to integrate the offer of 4EU+ educational activities that address key social challenges in the area of health and demographic change in an urban environment into existing teaching and learning processes as part of curricula.

Flagship 1 introductory video (2021)