JSI RESOURCES: Journal article

Healthier Cities through Systems Thinking: Practical Considerations for City Leaders


It is difficult to plan well for inclusive, healthy city growth, in part because urban planners and policymakers must consider the impact of a large number of projects on the health of urban residents. By linking urban planning and health sector goals, planners can better account for the complex inter-connections and dynamics between and across urban services. 

The USAID-funded Building Healthy Cities (BHC) project has worked with four Asian cities to test new models of “healthy” urban planning. In Makassar (Indonesia), Indore (India), Da Nang (Vietnam), and Kathmandu (Nepal), BHC used a systems approach to assess and address complex challenges. This enabled BHC and city partners to identify strategies that are immediately relevant to city leadership; make cities healthier and livable; address both short- and long-term goals; and better represent and engage all city residents in feedback loops. In this commentary, leaders from BHC’s partner cities shared their experiences of using this systems approach and tools to guide more efficient and effective planning for healthy urban growth. This commentary may prove useful to peer cities as they consider the practicality of applying systems thinking methodologies to urban planning and development.

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