Healthy Urban Planning

Hidden Cities: Shaping Public Health

Should architecture be considered a public health tool? Explore strategies to reshape the built environment and advance public health with governments, local leaders, and health professionals.


More and more people are living in urban areas, and by 2050 the urban population worldwide is expected to double to 6.4 billion. While urbanization is a proven health risk, no concerted effort has emerged to address global health needs. Architects must collaborate with governments, local leaders, and health professionals to reduce health inequalities and plan for the urban needs of the future.

Learn strategies you can use to reshape the built environment and:

  • Adopt a multi-sectoral approach, based on design solutions that have already achieved health benefits,
  • Promote access to essential services,
  • Advance public health through urban design.

Learning objectives

  • Understand how the greatest share of health problems in rapidly urbanizing contexts is attributable to living and working conditions such as poor and overcrowded housing, lack of access to clean water and decent sanitation, and, what architects can do to help.
  • Understand how many cities face the threats of infectious diseases thriving when people are crowded together and, also, increasing chronic diseases caused by unhealthy lifestyles which are facilitated by urban life, tobacco use, unhealthy diets, physical inactivity and harmful use of alcohol.
  • Understand how the World Health Organization and United Nations Human Settlements Program are working to convey how certain city dwellers suffer disproportionately form a wide range of diseases and heal
  • Understand how acting on urban health inequities requires the involvement of organized communities and all levels of government - local, regional and national - and how solutions often lie beyond the health sector, and require the engagement of architects and planners.
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  • Rick Bell

    Rick Bell


    Executive Director, Design and Construction Excellence | City of New York, Department of Design and Construction

    Rick Bell, FAIA, serves as Executive Director of Design and Contruction Excellence for the City of...
  • Alex  Ross, MSPH

    Alex Ross


    Director | World Health Organization Kobe Centre

    Mr. Alex Ross is Director of the WHO Centre for Health Development in Kobe, Japan (WKC), a global...