Sustainability and Health in a Smart City: Health at the Heart of a Smart City

Sustainability and Health in a Smart City: Health at the Heart of a Smart City

Vinod Anand Bijlani
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-4030-8.ch011
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Smart cities have so far focused on improving citizens' standards of living, with emphasis on better transportation, improved housing spaces and workplaces, and energy conservation. A pandemic-stricken world emerging to adopt a new normal has shifted the focus to health and hastened the need for leveraging technology, including but not limited to Blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI), and the internet of things (IoT) to enable Smart Cities to move to the next level of wellbeing. With public health and sustainability in the spotlight, civic agencies and government bodies are now alert to potential future contingencies that cannot be ruled out. This chapter emphasizes the need for a future-proofed healthcare system within sustainable Smart Cities that not only foresees and contains public health emergencies but also provides for its citizens' general wellbeing.
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It has taken a century’s worth of pandemics to emphasize that healthcare is an essential part of city life. Cities that are going the sustainable way are posed with the challenges of judiciously meeting the rising demand on hospitals, medical care, and related resources, while balancing sustainability. A strong healthcare system involves a steady flow of patients and a matching supply of physicians and medical experts. A city that can provide real-time health condition monitoring, predict disease diagnosis ahead of time, and offer preventive treatment and rehabilitation, has met its goal of being a Smart City with health at its core.

More than half the world’s population currently lives in cities (WHO, 2020), with the figures set to rise to 70% by 2050. With not even three-quarters of the infrastructure or resources required to meet this growth in place today, urban planners have a huge transformative challenge ahead of them. Their test is to create carefully-planned urban spaces enabling planetary health and citizen wellbeing, with a conscious link between the two. In other words, it is important to reform cities to have environmental, social, and population health at their center.

Individuals create thousands of data points throughout their daily lives. These data points help draw up data-driven solutions that solve challenges to health and sustainability. This data can be utilized to perform predictive and prescriptive analyses of various situations using AI and machine learning (ML). Digital models can help create value-based solutions that can fundamentally change life and health in a Smart City, with a focus on predictive and preventive healthcare for all. Figure 1 provides a snapshot of an intelligent healthcare ecosystem in a Smart City.

Figure 1.

Snapshot of an intelligent healthcare ecosystem in a Smart City

Infographic created by author

The multidimensionality of Smart Cities simultaneously focusing on sustainability and population health can pose a concern mainly due to the complexity of the concept. Appropriate policy implementations and a good governance model are needed to improve the quality of citizens’ health. The pace of implementation and the amount of funding could be ambitious, while also calling for changes in social and economic systems. The author deliberates on the maturity of Smart Cities to accelerate these actions and drive innovation, and attempts a proposition on reaching these goals.


Background And Literature Review

The World Health Organization (WHO, 2018) believes that where people live can affect their health and chances of leading flourishing lives. And yet, healthcare is often separated from urban infrastructure, although population health is a vital facet of city life.

Promoting population health and developing appropriate strategies rely on instantaneous connectivity. With a shift in paradigm from an ‘information society’ to a hyperconnected society, a healthy Smart City is a reality. Smart Cities comprise a hyperconnected digital network of devices producing big data (Wachowicz et al., 2013). With the arrival of 5G, terabytes of data collected from various sources across a Smart City’s data microcosm are all interrelated to provide valuable insights at low latency. Highly permeable data combined with ubiquitous technology and well-planned hyperconnected infrastructure in a Smart City can offer a solution to health challenges. Besides just hospitals and care facilities, it can extend healthcare to home, workplaces, and community spaces, and create a sustainable and safe living environment.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Population Health: Population health is the collective health of a group of individuals within a given region.

Personal Health Records: Personal health records or PHRs are a type of EHR. PHRs are a collection of medical records or health documents that are electronically maintained by the individuals themselves or their caregivers. They contain the individuals’ complete medical histories.

Sustainable Health: Sustainable health is the commitment to taking care of health and maintaining it either at a personal level, within a community or neighborhood, or for an entire city.

Electronic Health Records: Electronic health records or EHRs are a collection of systematized health and medical records of a patient or the population at large, stored in a compact, digital format.

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