30 May 2012
Ian Hamilton, Research Associate in Urban Energy Use at UCL-Energy, is one of a number of academics at UCL involved in a publication looking at how urban planning contributes to population health.
The UCL Lancet Commission on Healthy Cities, published online on May 30, provides an analysis of how health outcomes are part of the complexity of urban processes, arguing against the assumption that urban health outcomes will improve with economic growth and demographic change. Instead, it highlights the role that urban planning can, and should, play in delivering health improvements through reshaping the urban fabric of our cities.
The report considers this through case studies of sanitation and wastewater management (Mumbai), urban mobility (Bogotá), building standards (London), the urban heat island effect (London) and urban agriculture (Havana and Accra). These are followed with a discussion of the implications of a complexity approach for planning of urban environments, emphasising project-based experimentation and evaluation leading to self-reflection and dialogue.
The report’s key messages are:
- Cities are complex systems, so that health outcomes are emergent properties
- The urban advantage in health outcomes has to be actively promoted and maintained
- Inequalities in health outcomes should be recognised at the urban scale
- A linear or cyclical planning approach is insufficient in conditions of complexity
- Urban planning for health needs to emphasise experimentation through projects
- Evaluation leading to dialogue between stakeholders and self-reflection is essential
The UCL–Lancet Commission on Healthy Cities is a major inaugural project of Sustainable Cities, the second of UCL's four cross-disciplinary Grand Challenges addressing major societal issues of global relevance. The commission's authorship includes contributors from four of UCL's ten academic faculties, from the Universities of Pelotas and Otago, and from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.
The Healthy Cities report follows UCL's first Lancet Commission report, Managing the Health Effects of Climate Change, in May 2009.