Healthy Cities

Healthy Cities

Public Health through Urban Planning

Chinmoy Sarkar, Chris Webster and John Gallacher

Mounting scientific evidence generated over the past decade highlights the significant role of our cities’ built environments in shaping our health and well-being. In this book, the authors conceptualize the ‘urban health niche’ as a novel approach to public health and healthy-city planning that integrates the diverse and multi-level health determinants present in a city system.

Chapter 2: Tracing the ever-evolving relationship between urban planning and public health

Chinmoy Sarkar, Chris Webster and John Gallacher

Subjects: environment, environmental geography, geography, cities, social policy and sociology, health policy and economics, urban and regional studies, cities, urban studies


The advent of urbanization and associated problems endemic to it led to the evolution of the disciplines of public health and town planning. Although emerging from a common necessity to cope with the demands of urbanization and the resulting health issues, over the course of the past 200 years the relationship between the two disciplines has waxed and waned. Earlier, the good health of an individual had been simply synonymous with the non-existence of any identifiable serious disease, while a nation's health was reflected solely by measures such as infant mortality, mortality of middle-aged persons, prevalence of infectious diseases like tuberculosis, malnutrition in infants and expecting mothers, incidences of epidemic outbreaks, and so on. The multifold increases in population in Britain from the early or mid-nineteenth century and the West more generally over the next 100 years, and the ensuing accelerated urban expansion have been accompanied by increasing complexity of the urban health issues. As the aetiology of the disease shifted from infectious to chronic, the notion of health no longer remained intrinsically synonymous with the existence or non-existence of disease(s). It shifted away from the original unidimensional disease-focused model to a more holistic model comprising multiple dimensions of analysis, diagnosis and prescription in the form of well-being, quality of life and the so-called positive health agenda.

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