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Publications and Reports

Urban planning for resilience and health: key messages


Public health and its relationship with urban planning, risk governance, and the natural and built environment in cities have become more relevant than ever. Climate change, rapid and/or inadequately planned urbanization and environmental degradation have left many cities more vulnerable to disasters, many of which are triggered or associated with changing climate and environment conditions. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted for governments and citizens the links between health and urban environments – especially housing, public space, basic services and infrastructure, and transport. The recent United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report gives new urgency to both the need for preventive action and the requirement to prepare for increased frequency and significance of climate and related natural events. In addition, cities increasingly face local emergencies resulting from industrial accidents and system failures, indicating the high degree of interdependencies that especially large cities have. Inadequate planning has thus been recognized as a relevant disaster risk factor, affecting urban hazards, exposure and the level of vulnerability. Cities need to understand the features and processes that make them vulnerable to crises and environmental emergencies – and their associated health impacts – and to recognize the most effective policies and actions to reduce risk, be better prepared and become more resilient.

The Protecting environments and health by building urban resilience project led by the European Centre for Environment and Health of the WHO Regional Office for Europe aims to support local authorities and decision-makers to reflect on local preparedness needs and to build resilience. The project team compiled evidence and local-level experiences and lessons learned related to:

  • reducing health risks posed by local hazards from disasters and emergencies;
  • mitigating local vulnerability to these hazards; and
  • local priorities and actions for improving preparedness, resilience (and health) through urban planning and design, as well as urban infrastructure management.

The project’s exploration of how cities can utilize urban and infrastructural interventions, available data and local indicators and assessments to reduce local disaster risks and increase preparedness and resilience is a contribution to urban resilience and local coping capacities. It is also a central component of the broader objective of sustainable, equitable and healthy urban development.

This summary report brings together key messages and conclusions from three separate work strands, to identify how urban resilience and preparedness can be improved by city structure and design, and through urban management and monitoring.

Reference information

WHO Regional Office for Europe

Published in Climate-ADAPT Jun 27 2022   -   Last Modified in Climate-ADAPT Dec 12 2023

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