top of page

Urban Planning and Health in Developing Countries

The 21st century is marked by a global trend of urbanisation, and it has a significant impact on health. Currently, there are over 55% of people in the world live in urban areas, which is expected to rise to 68% by 2050. Most of this urban growth will take place in developing countries, and it will guide urban development trends that will protect and promote health. Health and well-being are considered to be the most important asset of the citizens and is currently inadequate in terms of housing, transport, poor sanitation, waste management and air quality that fails to comply with World Health Organisation (WHO) standards, for 4.2 billion citizens in the world living in urban areas. Other than this, pollutants resulting due to human activities include noise, water, soil contamination, and urban heat islands, also, lack of space for walking, cycling and active living result in a noncommunicable disease epidemic, and are drivers of climate change (World Health Organisation, 2021).

Such rapid urban growth puts urban dwellers at risk and is a result of poor urban design and planning. It is considered to be responsible for the top 10 causes of death that includes diseases like HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, pneumonia, dengue and diarrhoea; non-communicable diseases like heart disease, stroke, asthma, cancer, diabetes and depression; and violence and injuries, including road traffic injuries (World Health Organisation, 2021). Therefore, planners need to reconsider and be more effective in decision making in spatial planning, regulating the contemporary city to achieve well-being and health in cities. Furthermore, there is a requirement for assessing the effects of climate change along with impacts and solutions to disaster management, developing the nature-based solution and circular economy as an effect of a resilient community (Salata, 2019). This article examines the conditions of health and well-being of humans and other species that are enhanced with the mission of environmental public health. It extends well beyond remedial, clean up, or making up for past mistakes. It also includes the principles, frameworks and prevention strategies that fit within general practices of public health. (Frumkin, 2016).

Firstly, environmental public health is concerned with the prevention of chronic diseases such as cancers, lung diseases, birth defects and acute illnesses such as viral gastroenteritis, respiratory infections, and also vector-borne diseases such as malaria. Having said that, the environment has far broader impacts on health, and prevention efforts need to address all the concerns such as natural disasters, communicable diseases other than chronic diseases. Out of these impacts, some promote health by providing nutritious food, adequate supply of drinking water, opportunities for outdoor recreation and mental health benefits of nature contact (Frumkin, 2016). All these health conditions are related to the circumstances in which people live, work and age that shape the broader political, social and economic forces. Cities show a consistent pattern across the population and are not immune to socioeconomic status or geographical location towards health inequity (Corburn, 2013).

Secondly, there is a trend in developing countries of economic activities being concentrated on big cities. These big cities attract capital investment for employment, education and other opportunities. In many cases, there is a steep challenge posed for the ever-increasing demand for affordable housing and infrastructure supporting such development. Other public spaces such as parks and plazas are important for access to nature and are recognised by the leaders in many cities. These public spaces have positive impacts on the health of citizens to reduce obesity and improve mental health. Beyond these parks and plazas, urban trees provide a natural shade, reduce the urban heat island effect and reduce the pressure on artificial cooling (Newman, Beatley, & Boyer, 2017).

Thirdly, within the public health field, the functional model of disaster response categorises the cycle of activities, assigning to core areas of public health in the context of emergency management activities. This model acts in collaboration with traditional public health partnerships with other disciplines and ensures safety in public health. The functional model comprises the following six phases that correspond to the type of activities involved in preparing for and responding to a disaster: planning, prevention, assessment, response, surveillance, recovery, and evaluation. The model additionally delineates the responsibilities of the various disciplines of public health (Landesman, 2011).

In Conclusion, most urban health interventions tend to focus either on people or places but rarely both at the same time. They focus on bringing social services, primary care, economic opportunities and physical improvement to urban residents. Other than these interventions there are targets that include more care, more places offering care, more prevention and more services. If we are to move towards the 21st century of a healthy planet, we have to eliminate inequalities and promote health equity as a guiding principle (Corburn, 2013). This is possible by working across different sectors, by supporting and enabling environment for health. The work should be focused at the local level by integrating health and equity throughout the planning process (World Health Organisation, 2021).

World Health Organisation (2021) Urban Health. Retrieved from: [Accessed on 09 December 2021].

Salata, S. (2019). Ecologically-compatible urban planning: Designing a healthier environment. Retrieved from: Emerald Publishing Limited. [Accessed on 21 December 2021].

Frumkin, H. (Ed.). (2016). Environmental health: From global to local. John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated. Retrieved from: [Accessed on 02 January 2022].

Corburn, J. (2013). Healthy city planning: From neighbourhood to national health equity. Taylor & Francis Group. Retrieved from: [Accessed on 03 January 2022].

Newman, P., Beatley, T., & Boyer, H. (2017). Resilient cities, second edition: Overcoming fossil fuel dependence. Island Press. Retrieved from: [Accessed on 04 January 2022].

Landesman, L. Y. (2011). Public health management of disasters: The practice guide. APHA Press. Retrieved from: [Accessed on 05 January 2022].

86 views0 comments


bottom of page