CUSSH Project: Complex Urban Systems for Sustainability and Health

With more than half the world’s population living in cities, understanding how the built environment impacts human health at different urban scales is crucial. To be able to shape cities for health, an understanding is needed of planetary health impacts, which encompass the human health impacts of human-caused disruptions on the Earth’s natural ecosystems. This umbrella review maps health evidence across the spatial scales of the built environment (building; neighbourhood; and wider system, including city, regional and planetary levels), with a specific focus on urban housing. Systematic reviews published in English between January 2011 and December 2020 were searched across 20 databases, with 1176 articles identified and 124 articles screened for inclusion. 

Findings suggests that most evidence reports on health determinants at the neighbourhood level, such as green space, physical and socio-economic conditions, transport infrastructure and access to local services. Physical health outcomes are also primarily reported, with an emerging interest in mental health outcomes. There is little evidence on planetary health outcomes and significant gaps in the research literature are identified. Based on these findings, three potential directions are identified for future research.