Beyond Good Healthcare: Designing Healthy Cities

Calendar 21 May 2020
Time 4.00 pm – 4.40 pm, GMT+8 
Location Zoom
cpd1 SILA CPD Pts, 2 SIP CPD Pts



A healthy city involves more than good healthcare delivery. Studies have shown that a population’s health is significantly shaped by where and how we live, work, learn, and play – the social and urban environments we live in, and the behaviours we adopt.

How can cities be planned and designed to promote healthy behaviours and all-round health and wellbeing? What challenges need to be overcome, especially in the context of disruptions such as Covid-19?

Dr Loke Wai Chiong, Clinical Director of the Integrated Health Promotion in the Ministry of Health Office for Healthcare Transformation, will share how cities can promote healthy behaviours such as staying physically active and maintaining strong social bonds.

Prof Lam Khee Poh, Provost’s Chair Professor of Architecture and Building, will discuss how urban planning and the built environment can contribute to developing a Healthy City.

Webinar Video


Lecture Slides by Dr Loke Wai Chiong
Lecture Slides by Prof Lam Khee Poh

Lecture Report


COVID-19 may have shrunk our life spaces, but it has created opportunities for us to work, exercise and eat more within our precincts. Cities like Bogota, Auckland, Paris and Milan are taking this chance to extend their goals for making the city more sustainable, such as reclaiming roads that used to be filled with cars for pedestrians and bicycles instead. In Singapore, more people (want) to continue working from home, and that will determine the future of transport and offices in a post-COVID world.
- Dr Loke Wai Chiong


Increasing family strife, socially isolated elderly and the lack of space to both work and study from home. The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the lives of many, but its impact is not the same for all, says Dr Loke Wai Chiong during a CLC webinar in May on designing healthy cities.


It has brought to light various social and economic inequalities in cities, particularly amongst the elderly, lower-income and those with larger families. Cities now have the opportunity to address them by rethinking urban design and how to build greater community resilience, says the professor at the Ministry of Health Office for Healthcare Transformation.


“Is there a different way to design, to ensure personal space and privacy despite space constraints? Will residential space norms have to change?” says Dr Loke, who heads his agency’s Integrated Health Promotion programme. “Do we have to build up neighbourhoods in terms of social cohesion where neighbours can be empowered to take care (of each other), so that the community becomes stronger?”


His call for new approaches to high-density living was echoed by fellow panellist, Professor Lam Khee Poh. The dean of the School of Design and Environment at the National University of Singapore says communities and nations should consider other value propositions of organising their cities, beyond the traditional economic measurement of dollars-per-square-foot. For instance, Singapore’s hierarchical town planning, from neighbourhood to precinct to town centre, works well to address pandemic-related issues. Another example is the city of Seoul, where innovative urban planning consists of socially-inclusive partnerships between the people and the government.


Prof Lam added that many studies have shown the impact of the built environment on behaviours, including one that showed how social, behavioural and environmental factors make up some 60% of the impact of premature death and disease.


“Conducive environments can mitigate (health impacts). How much are we, as a society, willing to commit to R&D in these sectors?” he asks.


The built environment currently gets less investment in research and design as compared to the healthcare and pharmaceutical sector, adds Prof Lam. He believes there should be more cross-disciplinary efforts to find fresh approaches to encourage more healthy lifestyles.


An example is the on-going study by Dr Loke and his team to develop “healthy precincts” that can holistically address barriers to healthy behaviours and facilitate them. According to Dr Loke: “It’s (about influencing) both community and the environment, so that they in turn influence healthier behaviours, which then influences the long-term health outcomes for the individual.”


While the pandemic poses new barriers to achieving this through vibrant public spaces, social exercise activities and access to healthy food, Dr Loke says his team’s framework remains relevant but needs to be adapted to the new normal.


“In the past it was (about) the choice of food in restaurants or hawker centres, in the future it may be around grocery buying, ingredients and knowledge and ability of how to cook healthy meals,” he says. “The availability of healthy food around everyone’s neighbourhood, within walking distance, is going to be more and more important, and the principle of building healthy precincts will be even more important than before.”


This webinar report first appeared in Better Cities May 2020.


About the Speakers


Dr Loke Wai Chiong

Clinical Director (Programmes)
Head (Integrated Health Promotion)
Ministry of Health, Office for Healthcare Transformation

Wai Chiong leads the Integrated Health Promotion (InHealth) programme at MOHT, which aims to pilot initiatives at the precinct level to address socio-environmental determinants; and to co-create with the community a new norm to make healthy living easier. Prior to MOHT, Wai Chiong was Partner and Healthcare Sector leader for Deloitte Southeast Asia. As a management consultant, he advised governments, investors, life sciences companies, providers and payers globally.He started his career as a practising Family Physician, and went on to hospital management, health policy and business leadership roles across public and private sectors, including with the healthcare clusters, Ministry of Health, Economic Development Board and Temasek Investments.


Prof. Lam Khee Poh

Provost's Chair Professor, Architecture and Building
Dean, School of Design and Environment
National University of Singapore

Prof. Lam is architect and researcher who specialises in computational design support systems for total building performance analysis and building diagnostics. He is a member of the Singapore Future Economy Council Built Environment Sub Committee, and an Advisory Board member of the Singapore Centre for Liveable Cities and Delos, USA, which established the world's first building standard focused exclusively on human health and wellness. He was awarded the 2013 Alexander Schwarzkopf Prize for Technological Innovation from the US National Science Foundation “for exemplary research contribution to technology innovation and positive impact on technology, industry and the society as a whole”.


Dinesh Naidu
Deputy Director
Centre for Liveable Cities

A Deputy Director at the Centre for Liveable Cities (CLC), Dinesh Naidu leads teams responsible for curating and delivering CLC’s World Cities Summit, lecture series, magazines and digital platforms. Prior to joining CLC, Dinesh was a researcher-writer and activist in the field of architecture and urban heritage. His past roles include Executive Secretary of the Singapore Heritage Society and Deputy Editor of Singapore Architect magazine. Dinesh has been published in several journals and books, served on various public committees, and been interviewed in media like the International Herald Tribune, Christian Science Monitor, Wallpaper, Business Times and Channel New Asia.


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