All Roads Lead to Health
There is a growing awareness among
city dwellers about the impact of
urban life on their health and well-being,
from air pollution and mental stress to
lower immunity to diseases.
But can urban life be good for health?
How do we create cities that promote
good health and well-being for citizens?
In talking to experts and exploring
examples from cities across the world, this
is what we have learned:
Interventions, both small and large, can
have an impact.
We take it for granted but basic public
sanitation is critical for the health and
well-being of city residents, says Jack Sim,
founder of the World Toilet Organization.
On the other hand, beyond providing
basic health facilities, public health
advocate Liak Teng Lit believes in creating
health-promoting environments that
prevent people from falling ill in the
first place. How can this be achieved?
Researchers Elly Chiu and Denise Tan
explore how cities can redesign their
urban environments to promote healthy
behaviours through place-based and
human-centred approaches, from creating
superilles neighbourhoods in Barcelona to
nudging elevator users towards staircases
in Los Angeles. Public transport expert
Lucy Saunders outlines how cities can
develop healthy streets that are inviting,
pedestrian-friendly and accessible via
A city that plays well stays healthy.
We were inspired by examples of how
sports could lead to better health for
citizens. Kazan clinched a Lee Kuan
Yew World City Prize Special Mention
in 2018 when it overcame a history
of violence and poor public health by promoting sports and healthy
living through good urban planning,
community engagement and urban
design. Toyama reinvented itself as a
compact city for healthy seniors, while
Vancouver leads the way in promoting
active living and cycling. Singapore is
looking to enhance the growth and
health of young children through play
in nature, as well as in ensuring easy
access to sports and recreation facilities
Most of all, a healthy city is prepared for
In addition to creating conditions that
promote good health and well-being,
cities also have to deal with issues such as
ageing populations and climate change.
Cities would need to learn to be smart—to
incorporate new technology and leverage
data to enhance their ability to adapt to
these coming disruptions. Minister for
the Environment and Water Resources
Masagos Zulkifli shares Singapore’s
approach to fostering a liveable
environment in light of coming climaterelated
challenges, whereas Dr Hiroo
Ichikawa, Professor Emeritus of Meiji
University, discusses possible technological
solutions to address Tokyo’s ageing
population and shrinking workforce.
We hope this issue inspires city leaders
and citizens to work together to create
healthy and liveable cities. I wish you all
an enjoyable read.
Khoo Teng Chye
Centre for Liveable Cities