In 2011, the world’s population reached 7 billion and is projected to reach 10 billion by 2050. For the first time in human history, over half of the world’s population now live in cities, with a projected rise to 75% by 2050. Providing the infrastructure and resources needed to feed, water, mobilize and keep healthy this growing and ageing urban population is a massive undertaking. The creation of compact cities designed to facilitate active transport and active leisure is now seen as a global priority from both environmental sustainability and health perspectives.
Sustainable and healthy cities rely less on private motor vehicles for transportation and more on walking, cycling, and public transport use. A recent Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report called on national governments and land use, transport and health ministers to provide the necessary ‘legal, administrative and technical frameworks’ to meet the needs of pedestrians and to promote walking. Compact walking- and cycling-friendly cities have the potential to reduce chronic disease by increasing physically active forms of transportation, and reducing car dependency. Safe and attractive cities in which there is high quality public open space and places to walk benefit’s health by encouraging recreational walking and promoting mental health.
As cities grow in response to population growth and shifts from rural and regional communities into cities, a comprehensive understanding of the impact of built form on health and wellbeing is required to identify the intended and unintended impacts of decisions made in city planning. Drawing on a paper from a recently launched Lancet Series on Urban Design, Transport and Health, this seminar focused on unpicking the complex nature of city and building design on health and wellbeing on population health.