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STIAS Lecture Series 2017: Tolullah Oni – Re-conceptualising Health in Cities: Challenges and Opportunities

STIAS Public Lectures Series

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Please note the new venue for STIAS Public Lectures: Room 2121, 2nd floor, Van der Sterr Building  (use entrance 1 opposite the CGW Schumann Building).

Professor Tolullah Oni, Associate Professor and Public Health Physician Specialist/Epidemiologist at the School of Public Health and Family Medicine, University of Cape Town and  Iso Lomso STIAS fellow will present a talk with the title:

 Re-conceptualising Health in Cities: Challenges and Opportunities

STIAS Fellow Tolullah Oni

(See also: Five candidates selected as first STIAS Iso Lomso fellows)


How are population patterns changing in South Africa? What role do our different environments play in contributing to our health? Are cities making us sick? Whose job is it to promote health and prevent disease? Who are the modern day health professionals?

As countries urbanise, we are seeing a changing pattern of disease from predominantly acute and infectious to chronic and non-infectious. Urban exposures driving these disease trends in rapidly growing cities in Africa and other low and middle-income settings include a compromised food system, inadequate human settlements (including housing, access to safe transport, sport and recreation facilities), unsafe services (power, water, waste, sanitation), air and noise pollution, and degraded work environments.

In this public lecture, I will cover the changing pattern of disease in South Africa, and what is driving these changes, citing the role that some of these urban exposures play. I will argue why their study is important, and the need for stronger intersectoral policies. I will also highlight the opportunities to re-think the concept of health, and how to equitably promote and protect our collective health in the context of urbanisation.


Tolullah Oni is an Associate Professor and Public Health Physician Specialist/Epidemiologist at the School of Public Health and Family Medicine, University of Cape Town. She leads the Research Initiative for Cities Health and Equity (RICHE), and her urban health research focuses on understanding health transition, and the epidemiology of the interaction between common chronic conditions and the unplanned urban environment; providing evidence to support implementation of healthy public policies, and translation of research findings into policy and practice through collaboration with researchers and practitioners across disciplines and sectors.

She has received several awards in recognition of her research including the South African National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF) Emerging Researcher award, and the Carnegie Corporation “Next Generation of African Academics award. She is a Next Einstein Forum Fellow, a Fellow of the World Economic Forum Global Future Council on Health and Healthcare, and co-Chair of the Global Young Academy. She serves on several steering committees including the International Council of Science (ICSU) Programme on Urban Health and Wellbeing; and the Academy of Science of South Africa Standing Committee on Science for the Reduction of Poverty. She is an Editorial Board member of several international journals including Cities and Health journal, the Journal of Urban Health, and Lancet Planetary Health. She also works to promote science and research as key drivers of development in Africa through a coordinated approach between science, policy and society role players, to identify creative strategies to address complex population health and broader societal challenges.

Date and time

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

13:00 – 14:00​

All times are in SAST (UTC+2)


No location.

Related to this event


Iso Lomso Fellow
South Africa


Journal Article

Vearey, Jo, Isaac Luginaah, Ng’weina Francis Magitta, Dativa J Shilla and Tolu Oni. 2019. Urban health in Africa: a critical global public health priority. BMC Public Health, 19(1), 340.

Journal Article

Oni, Tolu, Mogo, E., Ahmed, A., and Davies, J. I. 2019. Breaking down the silos of Universal Health Coverage: towards systems for the primary prevention of non-communicable diseases in Africa. BMJ Global Health, 4(4), e001717.

Journal Article

Corburn, Jason, Blaise Nguendo-Yongsi, Waleska Teixeira Caiaffa, Tolu Oni and Gerard Salem. 2019. Urban Health Education: Global Challenges and Opportunities. Journal of Urban Health, 96(4), 510–513.

Journal Article

Weimann, Amy and Tolu Oni. 2019. A Systematised Review of the Health Impact of Urban Informal Settlements and Implications for Upgrading Interventions in South Africa, a Rapidly Urbanising Middle-Income Country. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 16(19), 3608.


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