15 April 2021
The available evidence of the health effects of urban regeneration is scarce In Latin America, and there are no studies focused on formal housing that longitudinally evaluate the impact of housing and neighborhood interventions on health. The “ Regeneración Urbana, Calidad de Vida y Salud” (Urban Regeneration, Quality of Life, and Health) or RUCAS project is a longitudinal, multi-method study that will evaluate the impact of an intervention focused on dwellings, built environment and community on the health and wellbeing of the population in two social housing neighborhoods in Chile.
RUCAS consists of a longitudinal study where inhabitants exposed and unexposed to the intervention will be compared over time within the study neighborhoods (cohorts), capitalizing on interventions as a natural experiment. Researchers have developed a specific conceptual framework and identified potential causal mechanisms. Proximal and more distal intervention effects will be measured with five instruments, implemented pre- and post-interventions between 2018 and 2021: a household survey, an observation tool to evaluate dwelling conditions, hygrochrons for measuring temperature and humidity inside dwellings, systematic observation of recreational areas, and qualitative interviews. Survey baseline data (956 households, 3130 individuals) is presented to describe sociodemographics, housing and health characteristics of both cohorts, noting that neighborhoods studied show worse conditions than the Chilean population.
RUCAS’ design allows for a comprehensive evaluation of the effects that the intervention could have on various dimensions of health and health determinants. RUCAS will face some challenges, like changes in the intervention process due to adjustments of the master plan, exogenous factors –including COVID-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns– and lost to follow-up. Given the stepped wedge design, that the study capitalizes on within household changes over time, the possibility of adjusting data collection process and complementarity of methods, RUCAS has the flexibility to adapt to these circumstances. Also, RUCAS’ outreach and retention strategy has led to high retention rates. RUCAS will provide evidence to inform regeneration processes, highlighting the need to consider potential health effects of regeneration in designing such interventions and, more broadly, health as a key priority in urban and housing policies.