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Chicago cityscape

Cities bring opportunities...
and challenges

Scroll to find out what Urban Health is.

What is Urban Health?

As urbanization rapidly increases, city life is becoming a reality for an ever-growing share of the global population. While cities can create opportunities for health, urban living can also adversely impact the health and wellness of communities.

Urban areas provide the opportunity to understand how places affect health and to also apply what we learn to promote action and protect the health of more people living in urban communities. Drexel's Urban Health Collaborative (UHC) aims to understand and improve urban health, beginning with engagement, both locally and globally. To achieve this goal, the UHC works to:

  • research the causes of urban health problems
  • evaluate policies and innovative solutions to urban challenges
  • invest in training urban health leaders
  • share what we learn
  • build partnerships between cities and with our local communities

What is an Urban Area?

Defining Urban to Bring Focus to Our Work

Photo of Spruce Hill Row Houses, West PhiladelphiaWe define ‘urban’ as the geographies where people’s homes, workplaces and gathering spaces are concentrated. While cities are prominent in discussions of urban health, the definition of urban areas is often inclusive of areas surrounding cities as contexts for the diverse sectors of daily life. 

Why Focus on
Heath in Cities?

Urban Populations
continue to
grow
worldwide

Health issues faced by city residents have grown beyond traditional urban health concerns to include:

icon of one person wearing a face mask to prevent infectious disease, while another person coughs

Infectious and chronic diseases

icon of  city building and smoke stack representing toxic environmental exposures

Toxic environmental exposures

icon of medical chart and person with heart beat line representing physical and mental health

Physical and mental health

Understanding the causes or determinants of these health challenges means drawing data and expertise from a variety of areas, including:

icon  of a siren representing safety

Safety

icon of a brief case representing unemployment

Employment

icon of a broken dollar bill representing poverty

Poverty

icon of a cityscape representing the Built Environment

Built Environment

icon of a mortarboard and diploma representing education

Education

icon of row houses representing Housing

Housing

... to name a few.

Cities present opportunities for health improvement

  • Design of cities and urban planning
  • Location of food stores and parks
  • Transportation and energy use
  • Economic and social policies
 
 
 

Health Disparities Warrant Special Attention

In urban areas, there are often dramatic health differences from one neighborhood to the next. These inequities result from residential segregation and are reinforced by differences across neighborhoods in physical and social environments, many of which can be affected by policy.

In the U.S., urban residents are diverse in socioeconomic, racial and ethnic backgrounds, which often make cities a place where health disparities across social groups and neighborhoods are most striking. Globally, urban populations include those in tenuous and temporary living conditions, those subject to violence and persecution and systemic disadvantage. A focus on health inequities and vulnerable populations is key to achieving population health improvements.

Act Locally as Part of a Connected, Global Network

Improving population health requires taking seriously the questions posed by the public, health care providers, and policymakers, so that our work is relevant to local needs. Urban health is a global challenge, and we are committed to spreading widely the ideas and information that can make people’s lives healthier.

Read about our Global Connections

Read about our Philadelphia Focus