..."Cities are complex systems whose infrastructural, economic and social components are strongly interrelated and therefore difficult to understand in isolation. The many problems associated with urban growth and global sustainability, however, are typically treated as independent issues. This frequently results in ineffective policy and often leads to unfortunate and sometimes disastrous." unintended consequences."

A unified theory of urban livingLuis M A Bettencourt and Geoffrey WestNature 467 (7318): 912-3, Oct 2010

The UHWB programme is a global science programme and interdisciplinary body of the International Science Council (ISC, previously ICSU), supported by the United Nations University (UNU) and the InterAcademy Partnership (IAP). It's international programme office is hosted by the Institute of Urban Environment (IUE) of the Chinese Academy of sciences (CAS) in Xiamen, China.

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The International Programme Office of the UHWB programme is located in Xiamen, China


To generate policy-relevant knowledge based on a systems approach that will improve health status, reduce health inequalities and enhance the wellbeing of populations living in urban environments—which are undergoing continual change. The programme is designed to build on and create synergies with science and policy communities, focusing on population health and addressing a critically important but as-yet inadequately studied perspective on the systemic determinants of human health and wellbeing.

We envision future healthy cities functioning as integrated complex systems which sustainably provide benefits for the health and wellbeing of its residents while not compromising planetary health.


The goals of this science programme reflect the structure of the programme as proposed by the planning group report (ICSU 2011b). It aims at

1. Promoting and coordinating research projects

2. Developing methodologies and identifying data needs

3. Building and strengthening capacity

4. Communicating new knowledge: promotion and outreach

The Institute of Urban Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences in Xiamen, China


Goal 1 will be achieved by generating high-impact scholarly outputs; by enabling better-informed decision-making by the variety of stakeholders involved in urban-health and wellbeing; and by establishing systems approaches to health and well-being in the urban environment as a thriving and relevant area of interdisciplinary research.

Goal 2 will be reached by proposing innovative systems methodologies and approaches that are applicable to the particular challenges of health and wellbeing in the urban environment; by identifying data needs that inform and influence the various ongoing and planned observation and monitoring initiatives; and by identifying new data from third research studies that can be made openly available.

Goal 3 will be achieved by building the scientific capacity and supporting interdisciplinary platforms necessary for undertaking research into urban health and wellbeing using systems approach; by building the capacity of policy makers and practitioners to understand scientific research on urban health and wellbeing using a system approach; by facilitating the establishment of networks in research, business and civil society communities which take a systems approach to urban health and wellbeing and by expanding the number of students and young scientists with an interest to undertake research, entrepreneurial and civil engagement activities for urban health and wellbeing using systems approaches that engage with substantive policy relevant issues.

Goal 4 will be reached by creating a virtual forum as a point of reference for the scientific community and other stakeholders; by promoting interaction and collaboration between researchers and with other relevant stakeholders, via conferences and workshops and by making results available to multiple stakeholders in a relevant format that allows them to be easily understood.