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Jeff Levin and Ellen Idler

Religion, in both its personal and institutional forms, is a significant force influencing the health of populations across the life course. Decades of research have documented that expressions of faith and the practice of spiritual pursuits exhibit significantly protective effects for physical and mental health, psychological well-being, and population rates of morbidity, mortality, and disability. This finding has been observed across sociodemographic categories, across nations and cultures, across specific disease outcomes, and regardless of one’s religious affiliation. A salutary religious effect on health and well-being is especially apparent among older adults, but is also observed across generations and age cohorts. Moreover, this association has been persistently found for various religious indicators, including attendance at worship services, prayer and other private practices, subjective feelings of religiosity, and numerous measures of religious behaviors, attitudes, beliefs, and experiences. Finally, a protective or primary preventive effect of religion has been observed in clinical, epidemiologic, social, and behavioral studies, regardless of research design or methodology. Faith-based organizations also have contributed to the health of populations, in partnerships or alliances with medical institutions and public health agencies, many of these dating back many decades. Examples include congregational health promotion and disease prevention programs and community-wide interventions, especially targeting the health and well-being of older congregants and those in less well-resourced communities, as well as faith–health partnerships in healthcare delivery, public health policymaking, and legislative advocacy for healthcare reform. Religious denominations and institutions also play a substantial role in global health development throughout the world, individually and in partnership with national health ministries, transnational medical mission organizations, and established nongovernmental agencies. These efforts focus on a wide range of goals and objectives, including building public health infrastructure, addressing ongoing environmental health needs, and responding to acute public health challenges and crises, such as infectious disease outbreaks. Constituencies include at-risk populations and cohorts throughout the life course, and programming ranges from perinatal care to maternal and child healthcare to geriatric medicine.


Maria Cecília de Souza Minayo and Saul Franco

Violence is a problem that accompanies the trajectory of humanity, but it presents itself in different ways in each society and throughout its historical development. Despite having different meanings according to the field of knowledge from which it is addressed and the institutions that tackle it, there are some common elements in the definition of this phenomenon. It is acknowledged as the intentional use of force and power by individuals, groups, classes, or countries to impose themselves on others, causing harm and limiting or denying rights. Its most frequent and visible forms include homicides, suicides, war, and terrorism, but violence is also articulated and manifested in less visible forms, such as gender violence, domestic violence, and enforced disappearances. Although attention to the consequences of different forms of violence has always been part of health services, its formal and global inclusion in health sector policies and guidelines is very recent. It was only in 1996 that the World Health Organization acknowledged it as a priority in the health programs of all countries. Violence affects individual and collective health; causes deaths, injuries, and physical and mental trauma; decreases the quality of life; and impairs the well-being of people, communities, and nations. At the same time, violence poses problems for health researchers trying to understand the complexity of its causes, its dynamics, and the different ways of dealing with it. It also poses serious challenges to health systems and services for the care of victims and perpetrators and the formulation of interdisciplinary, multi-professional, inter-sectoral, and socially articulated confrontation and prevention policies and programs.


Evelyne de Leeuw, Jean Simos, and Julien Forbat

The authors of this article purport that for current understanding of Healthy Cities it is useful to appreciate other global networks of local governments and communities. In a context where the local level is increasingly acknowledged as decisive in designing and implementing policies capable of tackling global threats such as climate change and their health-related aspects, understanding how thousands of cities across the world have decided to respond to those challenges appears essential. Starting with the concept of “healthy cities” in the 1980s, the trend toward promoting better living conditions in urban settings has rapidly grown to encompass today countless “theme cities” networks. Each network tends to focus on more or less specific issues related to well-being and quality of life. These various networks are thus not limited to more or less competing labels (Healthy Cities, Smart Cities, or Inclusive Cities, for instance), but entail significant differences in their approaches to the promotion of health in the urban context. The aim of this article is to systematically typify these “theme cities.” A typology of “theme cities” networks has several objectives. First, it describes the health aspects that are considered by the networks. Are they adopting a systemic perspective on all health determinants, such as Healthy Cities, or are they focusing on “hardware” determinants like Smart Cities? Second, it highlights the key characteristics of the networks. For instance, are they pushing for technological solutions to health problems, like Smart Cities, or are they aiming at strengthening communities in order to mitigate their detrimental effects, like Creative Cities? Third, the typology has the potential to be used as an analytical tool, for example, in the comparison of the results obtained by different types of networks in urban health issues. Finally, the typology offers a tool to enhance both transparency and participation in the policymaking process taking place when selecting and engaging in a network. Indeed, by clarifying the terms of the debate, decisions can be made more explicit and achieve a greater level of congruence with the overall objectives of the city. Indeed, Healthy Cities today need to make alliances with other theme networks, and this typology gives the keys to find which networks are the “natural best allies,” avoiding mutually harmful antagonisms. In that sense, the typology developed should be of interest to any actor involved in health promotion at the city level, whether in an existing “theme cities” policy process or as willing to participate in such a program, and to scholars interested in better understanding the main drivers of “theme cities” networks, a rapidly growing field of study.


Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) have become the first cause of morbidity and mortality around the world. These have been targeted by most governments because they are associated with well-known risk factors and modifiable behaviors. Migrants present, as any population subgroup, peculiarities with regard to NCDs and, more relevantly, need specific information on associated risk factors to appropriately target policies and interventions. The country of origin, assimilation process, and many other migrant health aspects well studied in the literature can be related to migrants’ health risk factors. In most countries, existing sources of information are not sufficient or should be revised, and new sources of data should be found. Existing survey systems can meet organizational difficulties in changing their questionnaires; moreover, the number of changes in the adopted questionnaire should be limited for the sake of brevity to avoid excessive burden on respondents. Nevertheless, a limited number of additional variables can offer a lot of information on migrant health. Migrant status, country of origin, time of arrival should be included in any survey concerned about migrant health. These, along with information on other Social Determinants of Health and access to health services, can offer fundamental information to better understand migrants’ health and its evolution as they live in their host countries. Migrants are often characterized by a better health status, in comparison with the native population, which typically is lost over the years. Public health and health promotion could have a relevant role in modifying, for the better, this evolution, but this action must be supported by timely and reliable information.


Rachel Baffsky, Lynn Kemp, and Anne Bunde-Birouste

Sports-based positive youth development (SB-PYD) programs are health promotion programs that intentionally use sports to build life skills and leadership capacity among young people at risk of social exclusion. The defining characteristics of SB-PYD programs are that they are strengths-based, holistic, and use sports as a vehicle to maximize young people’s health, social, and educational outcomes. SB-PYD programs aim to enhance modifiable social determinants of health (such as social inclusion) by explicitly addressing three Ottawa charter action areas; strengthening community action, developing personal skills, and creating supportive environments. These programs have been increasingly implemented since the early 2000s to address the United Nations’ sustainable development goals. Despite their growth, research indicates that SB-PYD programs are often designed, implemented, and evaluated without evidence-based theories of change. An evidence-based theory of change is a visual depiction of a program’s assumptions, activities, contextual factors, and outcomes supported by scientific findings. A lack of evidence-based theory of change becomes problematic at the implementation phase when practitioners are trying to determine if their programs should be adapted or fixed. Without an evidence-based theory of change, practitioners are making changes based on their intuition, which limits program outcomes. However, the process of developing a theory of change is time-consuming and resource intensive. Multiple calls to action have been made for SB-PYD practitioners who have successfully developed evidence-based theories of change to share their process with others in the field. This will provide a blueprint for other SB-PYD practitioners to develop and articulate their own theories of change to optimize program development and adaptation. Traditional translational research models assume the development of an evidence-based theory of change is the first step in a linear process of developing a sustainable health promotion program. However, in the 2010s, researchers started to observe that the development and adaptation of health promotion programs was rarely a linear process in reality, and that case studies are needed to provide empirical support for this claim. It is valuable for SB-PYD practitioners to consider the benefits of using translational research to develop and revise evidence-based theories of change for programs at any stage of implementation to maximize their public health impact.