Defining pathways to healthy sustainable urban development

Cathryn Tonne*, Linda Adair, Deepti Adlakha, Isabelle Anguelovski, Kristine Belesova, Maximilian Berger, Christa Brelsford, Payam Dadvand, Bert van Wee

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

79 Citations (Scopus)
38 Downloads (Pure)


Goals and pathways to achieve sustainable urban development have multiple interlinkages with human health and wellbeing. However, these interlinkages have not been examined in depth in recent discussions on urban sustainability and global urban science. This paper fills that gap by elaborating in detail the multiple links between urban sustainability and human health and by mapping research gaps at the interface of health and urban sustainability sciences. As researchers from a broad range of disciplines, we aimed to: 1) define the process of urbanization, highlighting distinctions from related concepts to support improved conceptual rigour in health research; 2) review the evidence linking health with urbanization, urbanicity, and cities and identify cross-cutting issues; and 3) highlight new research approaches needed to study complex urban systems and their links with health. This novel, comprehensive knowledge synthesis addresses issue of interest across multiple disciplines. Our review of concepts of urban development should be of particular value to researchers and practitioners in the health sciences, while our review of the links between urban environments and health should be of particular interest to those outside of public health. We identify specific actions to promote health through sustainable urban development that leaves no one behind, including: integrated planning; evidence-informed policy-making; and monitoring the implementation of policies. We also highlight the critical role of effective governance and equity-driven planning in progress towards sustainable, healthy, and just urban development.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106236
Number of pages15
JournalEnvironment International
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Cities
  • Health
  • Mental health
  • Urban extent
  • Urbanicity
  • Urbanization


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