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Home > PUBLICATIONS > Featured Publications

Featured Publications

April 20, 2018

This report has been co-authored by members of the Urban Health and Wellbeing programme. It's key recommendations underline the need for taking a systems approach to healthy cities:

  1. Integrate health into all policies. China should take advantage of new, human-centred urbanisation strategies. For example, cities should integrate health into urban planning and design as a first step towards the integration of health into all policies.

  2. Increase participation. Cities should increase participation by residents, the private sector, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and community groups in health management. This increase can be achieved through investment in community capacity building and engagement with the private sector.

  3. Promote intersectoral action. To motivate and sustain intersectoral action in the design, building, and management of healthy cities, cities should develop ways to assess the health effects of urban management by use of measures that span multiple and diverse sectors.

  4. Set local goals for 2030 and assess progress periodically. Cities should view the health goals specified in the Healthy China 2030 plan as long-term goals that are achieved through the building of healthy cities. Indicator systems should be put in place to assess progress and inform the public.

  5. Enhance research and education on healthy cities. To develop new theories and practical solutions, cities should increase investment and form partnerships with universities, research institutes, and the private sector to support research and education on the best ways to create healthy cities.

Lessons from complexity science for urban health and well-being

Franz W. Gatzweiler, Stefan Reis, Yi Zhang & Saroj Jayasinghe (2018): Lessons from complexity science for urban health and well-being, Cities & Health, DOI: 10.1080/23748834.2018.1448551


From a complexity science perspective, urban health and well-being challenges emerge due to the complexity of urban systems. Adverse urban health outcomes emerge from failing to respond to that complexity by taking a systems approach in knowledge and action which would open opportunity spaces for human agents to create benefits which in turn would generate salutogenic health and well-being outcomes. Lessons learned from complexity science suggest that adverse urban health outcomes emerge from a poor understanding of their complexity and from not engaging with them in a transdisciplinary, integrated fashion. A conceptual framework is presented which combines systems models from the natural and social sciences and explains how opportunities for advancing health and well-being can be co-created. The framework demonstrates that taking a systems approach is a necessary cognitive response from learning the lessons of complexity science and from understanding that humans are an inextricable part of the systems they aim at understanding and managing. Such response is at the core of systems intelligence. The implications are far reaching for the science of urban health and well-being.

Keywords: Complexity, urban health, risk, systems intelligence

This book outlines the latest thinking about the preferences people have for their urban life, the patterns of urban development in Aotearoa, and the possibilities for our cities in the future. It takes a systems view, where all the components that make up the city are interlinked, so that a decision to change one aspect of the urban fabric can also affect other parts of the city system. Where we choose to build new houses and apartments affects housing and transport costs, access of the residents to social amenities, opportunities to increase healthy modes of transport such as walking and cycling, the amount of air pollution, and many other factors.

Cite as: Howden-Chapman, P., Early, L., & Ombler, J. (Eds.). (2017). Cities in New Zealand: Preferences, patterns and possibilities. Wellington, New Zealand: Steele Roberts Aotearoa

Wanted: a Transdisciplinary Knowledge Domain for Urban Health

Roderick J Lawrence, Franz W Gatzweiler

Journal of Urban Health (2017) 94: 592–596

Making sense of empirical knowledge requires a new transdisciplinary knowledge domain created by a commitment to convergence between researchers in multiple academic disciplines and other actors and institutions in cities. Disciplinary-based researchers are no longer the sole producers of empirical knowledge. Today, diverse kinds of knowledge are becoming an emergent product of multiple societal stakeholders acting collectively to address challenges that impact on their habitat, their livelihood, and their health. Insights from complexity science also require a fundamental rethinking of the role and responsibility of human agency while admitting rather than denying complexity and radical uncertainty

Defining and advancing a systems approach for sustainable cities

Xuemei Bai et al.

Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, Volume 23, December 2016, Pages 69-78

A systems approach is urgently needed in urban research and policy analysis, but such an approach rarely features in current analysis or urban decision-making for various reasons. This paper explores four questions: why a systems approach is necessary, what defines such an approach, why has this rarely been adopted in practice, and what can be done to promote its use.

The need for a systems approach to planetary health

Montira J Pongsiri, Franz W Gatzweiler, Andrea M Bassi, Andy Haines, Fanny Demassieux

The Lancet Planetary Health, Vol. 1, No. 7, e257–e259, October 2017

A systems approach for planetary health involves understanding that human health outcomes emerge from complex interactions between natural and social systems and that stakeholder engagement is necessary in the co-production of this knowledge.

The need for a complex systems model of evidence for public health

Harry Rutter et al. 2017

The Lancet Volume 390, No. 10112, p2602–2604

To date, the evidence underpinning responses to these challenges has largely been generated by tools and methods that were developed to answer questions about the effectiveness of clinical interventions, and as such are grounded in linear models of cause and effect. Identification, implementation, and evaluation of effective responses to major public health challenges require a wider set of approaches and a focus on complex systems.

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