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Cities / Healthy Cities

Healthy City Design 2018

Creating healthy cities for all: Designing for equity and resilience

By Jeremy Myerson 28 Jan 2019 0

In less than 200 years, the proportion of the world’s population living in cities has grown from 5 per cent to more than half. As our planet urbanises, how do we promote sustainable development, wellbeing and inclusive growth in creating cities and communities that are resilient, equitable and fair to all?


In their planning and design, cities have made undeniable progress in advancing the health of their citizens over the past 60 years. Within cities, however, health inequalities exist, and these are largely based on broader social inequalities. Cities have become polarised between rich and poor, public and private, engaged and excluded.

At the same time, unparalleled socio-economic progress and population growth have created patterns of highly inequitable, inefficient and unsustainable resource consumption, which are taking a heavy toll on the Earth’s natural systems. The result is substantial health impacts, including reduction of food security and nutrition, loss of freshwater resources, higher exposure to communicable and non-communicable diseases, and loss of life from extreme weather events.1

Creating cities that are fairer and less divisive places in relation to health outcomes depends on how resilient they are in their design and planning. Resilience can manifest in emerging infrastructures that promote flexible working practices or more active modes of transport, or in access to fresh, locally produced food. It can find expression in the adoption of new technologies that address climate change or air pollution. Healthcare systems in cities also need operational resilience, just as social resilience is itself a factor in creating better urban health.

Architects, planners, designers, clinicians, technologists, economists, policymakers and citizens all share a responsibility to create healthier cities that are both equitable and resilient. This was the theme of the second Healthy City Design International 2018 Congress, organised by SALUS Global Knowledge Exchange in collaboration with the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design, Royal College of Art.

Compelling and challenging discourse

Healthy City Design 2018 featured two days of high-level, insightful, provocative and entertaining presentations. Each day opened and closed with keynote plenary sessions before splitting into three parallel streams (six in total). Day one focused on: healthy homes and neighbourhoods; urban planning, resilience and renewal; and work and workplace. Day two covered: sustainable development; placemaking and the public realm; and smart cities and mobility.

The event hosted a poster gallery of innovative research and projects, and a knowledge-focused exhibition of design solutions for cities, communities and workplaces. A gala dinner and networking evening took place on Monday 15 October, featuring live entertainment from the Royal Academy of Music and a keynote address from Lord Andrew Mawson, a world-leading thinker in future city design.

1. The Rockefeller Foundation-Lancet Commission on Planetary Health: Safeguarding human health in the Anthropocene epoch. Lancet, 2015; 386: 1973-2028