The Third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, Habitat III, will produce a new agenda for the next 20 years of urban development. For this global strategy to succeed, the health of the nearly four billion people who dwell in cities today must be a central concern. Decisions related to urban planning, finance and governance can create or exacerbate major health risks – or they can foster healthier environments and lifestyles, that in turn reduce the risks of both communicable and noncommunicable diseases.
Cities that offer health-enabling environments and coordinated support for healthy lifestyles can ensure that their citizenry are not only healthier and happier, but more economically productive, with far lower costs to both families and societies due to work-related illnesses and injuries. This paper clarifies these and other critically important connections between health and urban policies. It also provides a detailed vision for integrating health into urban planning and governance, and offers practical guidance on health-promoting approaches for those tasked with implementing the New Urban Agenda in the years to come.