UN-Habitat works to position health outcomes at the centre of urban development efforts and to support cities and partners in developing adequate urban planning systems, processes and tools to achieve healthy cities for all.

Health is influenced by multiple factors. And many of them are outside the control of the health sector. In cities and regions, planning and design play a central role in the prevention of disease and in fostering healthier environments. For example, effective urban design, policies, strategies, and plans lead to cleaner air, cleaner water, safer movement of the population, and better prevention measures to curb the spread of disease. Deliberate action in the planning of cities and territories can contribute directly or indirectly to improve overall health and wellbeing.

The Challenge

Rapid urbanization and absence or inadequacy urban planning can lead to unhealthy environments which sustain infectious diseases (e.g. COVID-19, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, pneumonia, diarrhoea) and non-communicable diseases (heart diseases, respiratory illnesses, obesity, cancers, diabetes, mental health illnesses).

One in four adults and four out of five adolescents globally do not currently meet WHO’s recommendations for physical activity. The global cost of physical inactivity is estimated at USD 54 billion per year in direct health care, with an additional USD 14 billion attributable to lost productivity.

Seven million deaths globally were attributed to the joint effects of household and ambient air pollution in 2016.


UN-Habitat has reached over
10,000 people
worldwide in the importance of planning for healthy cities and territories
100 case studies
of urban planning contribution to health outcomes have been collected and disseminated.

News and Stories

Highlighted Publications

Technical Report
Global framework for the response to malaria in urban areas
Technical Report
The Comprehensive Multisectoral Action Framework - Malaria and Sustainable Development
Toolkits, Manuals and Guides
Integrating health in urban and territorial planning: A sourcebook for urban leaders, health and planning professionals
Toolkits, Manuals and Guides
A Guide: Leveraging Multi-Level Governance Approaches to Promote Health Equity

Donors and partners

UN-Habitat’s work on urban health involves collaboration with various partners. Its partnerships with national and sub-national governments, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation (OECD) and Cities Alliance, are vital in the implementation of policy interventions in various countries. Jointly organised events, including policy dialogues, roundtable discussions, networking and training events strengthen these partnerships and promote advocacy in participating countries.

Our Experts

Naomi Hoogervorst
Programme Management Officer, Planning, Finance and Economy Section
Urban Practices Branch, Global Solutions Division