COVID-19 and Urban Health

COVID-19 is having a detrimental impact on urban population health. The virus has caused hundreds of thousands of deaths. At the same time, public health and social measures to prevent virus transmission are having wider health consequences. Loss of employment and income has exacerbated food insecurity, health services have been partially or completely disrupted across the world, and many measures have had adverse impacts in terms of mental and physical health. Negative health impacts of COVID-19 are disproportionately being felt by populations living in vulnerable circumstances, widening existing health inequalities.

Local and national governments are implementing policies to stem the global crisis while introducing measures to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on society and individuals. City leaders have always had an important role to play in improving the health of their populations, ensuring that policies across various sectors, including housing, employment, food and transport policies, have a positive impact on health. In responding to the pandemic, cities have had to react rapidly and innovatively to address the challenges raised by the pandemic. Cities have an important role in monitoring the impact of the pandemic and of the measures put in place on population health and health inequalities.  

As the world looks to rebuild and recover, there is an opportunity to define a new city standard, one which invests and creates policy to protect and promote population health, address inequalities and combat environmental degradation. 

City responses through COVID-19

Short case studies have been collated on how cities around the world have responded to the many challenges raised by COVID-19, including mobility, food security and safety, protecting older people and marginalized populations. These highlight how cities have been able to build on their existing networks and partnerships with communities to best respond to the needs of their populations. Many of these initiatives are building resilience and will be important in shaping future policy on urban health.

credits: WHO / Lorenzo Pezzoli

source WHO (

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