This panel brings together historical and contemporary perspectives on innovation and urban health in Africa. It questions the nature and boundaries of innovation, asking how far innovation in health and healthcare has been, and continues to be, an urban phenomenon.
Urban areas are often assumed to be spaces of innovation for health and healthcare. The concentration of finances, education, specialist medical institutions, competition, and new technologies, as well as a greater mobility of population, have all been linked to the reshaping of care, knowledge, and practice. This assumption is rarely questioned, however, despite research that highlights the ways in which rural communities and institutions also employ innovative strategies to improve health and healthcare. This panel investigates the pasts, present, and futures of urban health through the lens of innovation. It questions the nature and boundaries of innovation, asking how far innovation in health and healthcare has been, and continues to be, an urban phenomenon. How closely are innovations, such as those in community health initiatives, cancer research, sanitation projects, and service-user support programmes, tied to urban or rural spaces? To what extent have urban environments created distinct health challenges that have fuelled innovation, and have this been effective? And what is the relationship between urban and rural populations in the generation of health knowledge and practices? Papers are invited from scholars and practitioners whose work offers new ways of approaching questions of innovation and urban health in Africa from historical or contemporary perspectives. Potential topics include, but are not limited to: colonial development schemes, medical research and training, systems of care, health education, digital technologies, and NGO projects.