Healthy Cities, Healthy People


The aim of the Healthy Cities, Healthy People programme is to advance our knowledge of the impacts of multi-sectoral social, economic, behavioural and technological processes on environmental conditions, exposures and health, with a focus on cities where more than one half of the world’s population now resides.

This research will support the promotion of healthy urban environments both in high-income and low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), advancing sustainable development that supports healthier lives for all through tackling health inequalities.



Programme Leader: Professor Majid Ezzati (ICL)

Principal teams: M Ezzati, A de Nazelle, D Fecht, E GreggM Toledano, M Williams.

Associated teams: B Barratt, S Beevers, P Elliott, G Fuller, D Green.


Key Projects
• Our new research programme on health in cities Pathways to Equitable Healthy Cities’ funded through the Wellcome Trust will use a combination of traditional and emerging data sources (e.g. high-resolution satellite imagery, street imagery and social media) to improve measurements and estimates of multiple health and urban environment variables (e.g. housing characteristics, air pollution, green space, walkability) and assess the impact of policies on mortality and hospitalisation. The programme will develop a shared analytical framework, comparing results across two large cities in high-income countries (London, Vancouver) and four in LMICs (Accra, Beijing, Dhaka, Tamale).

• We will use the implementation of the London ultra-Low Emission Zone (uLEZ) in April 2019, to evaluate the expected impact of lower levels of air pollution on: lung function and lung growth in primary school children, two risk markers for chronic respiratory illness in later life (CHILL study); cognitive progression in early secondary school years (SCAMP study); and on cardio-respiratory diseases in adults, both at city-wide and at small-area scale, using the Small Area Health Statistics Unit (SAHSU) database.

•We will assess the health impact of a road charging scheme. The Western Extension Zone to the London Congestion Charge zone was in operation for 4 years before being discontinued in 2010, a rare opportunity to conduct a natural experiment. We will provide information on the impact on hospitalisation of such schemes using the Small Area Health Statistics Unit (SAHSU) database.

• A new Health Foundation-funded project will explore how the health of children aged 11 to 19 is influenced by the characteristics of the places they spend their time. The influence of both physical and virtual (online) places will be considered in relation to children’s development of knowledge and skills and their impact on economic productivity and social development.

Key Papers
•The future of life expectancy and life expectancy inequalities in England and Wales: Bayesian spatiotemporal forecasting. Bennett JE, Li G, Foreman K, Best N, Kontis V, Pearson C, Hambly P, Ezzati M. Lancet. 2015 Jul 11;386(9989):163-70.

•Geographical Inequalities and Social and Environmental Risk Factors for Under-Five Mortality in Ghana in 2000 and 2010: Bayesian Spatial Analysis of Census Data. Arku RE, Bennett JE, Castro MC, Agyeman-Duah K, Mintah SE, Ware JH, Nyarko P, Spengler JD, Agyei-Mensah S, Ezzati M. PLoS Med. 2016 Jun 21;13(6):e1002038.

•Anomalously warm temperatures are associated with increased injury deaths. Nature Medicine 2020; 26(1):65-70. Parks RM, Bennett JE, Tamura-Wicks H, Kontis V, Toumi R, Danaei G, Ezzati M.

•Contributions of diseases and injuries to widening life expectancy inequalities in England from 2001 to 2016: a population-based analysis of vital registration data. Bennett JE, Pearson-Stuttard J, Kontis V, Capewell S, Wolfe I, Ezzati M. Lancet Public Health. 2018 Dec;3(12):e586-e597.

•Measuring social, environmental and health inequalities using deep learning and street imagery. Suel E, Polak JW, Bennett JE, Ezzati M. Sci Rep. 2019 Apr 18;9(1):6229.

•Rising rural body-mass index is the main driver of the global obesity epidemic in adults. NCD Risk Factor Collaboration (NCD-RisC). Nature. 2019 May;569(7755):260-264.

•Inequalities in exposure to nitrogen dioxide in parks and playgrounds in Greater London. Sheridan CE, Roscoe CJ, Gulliver J, de Preux L, Fecht D. IJERPH 2019, 16:3194