Report on the contribution of urban planning and management to resilience and health protection

21 June 2022

Article: 56/2411

On 14 June 2022, World Health Organization Europe (WHO/Europe), in collaboration with UN-Habitat, published four reports examining how health and environment can be protected by building urban resilience. The reports have reviewed evidence, practice and monitoring frameworks on urban resilience, in order to help local authorities and decision-makers reflect on the environment and health dimensions of local preparedness and resilience, and to promote the application of urban planning approaches to establish safe, healthy and sustainable cities. 

Disasters and emergencies have a direct impact on population health, causing injuries and diseases, as well as mental and psychosocial outcomes. Extreme events also significantly affect the functionality of critical infrastructure, such as health care facilities, water and energy supply and transport. Over the last two decades, natural disasters, such as flooding and storm events, have claimed more than 300,000 lives globally, and affected cities across all countries of the WHO European Region, with disasters caused an estimated economic loss of US$271 billion across the region.

Various global frameworks have been established to address sustainable development, urban environments and resilience, and awareness of the local benefits associated with implementation of these global agendas is growing. Urban planning, risk governance and resilience have become increasingly important pathways for cities in preparation for disasters and to reduce or prevent associated public health impacts at a local level. 

Cities need to understand what features and processes make them vulnerable to crises, and to environmental and technological emergencies, and their associated health impacts, while also recognising the most effective counteractions, in order to become better prepared and more resilient. 

Overall, the strategic key messages of the project highlight the need for urban planners and decision-makers to: 

  • use relevant data and tools to enhance risk-informed decision-making and address inequality 
  • strengthen community involvement and engagement in urban interventions 
  • break down silos, establish common goals and enable a whole-of-government approach to emergency management and preparedness 
  • establish and implement land-use, building and infrastructure planning and regulations, with a preventive approach to protect health 
  • promote compactness, land-use mix and connectivity throughout the city to reduce distances and dependencies 
  • apply green and blue spaces and nature-based solutions strategically and synergistically in urban environments to build resilience and protect health 

The reports of the project provide information and lessons learned on how to build forward better and apply environmental and infrastructural planning as an important pathway towards building urban resilience. 

Source: WHO/Europe, 13 June 2022