Public health, epidemics and urban planning: reinstating the connection


Guy Baeten , Defne Kadioglu , Myrto Dagkouli-Kyriakoglou , Chiara Valli , Lorena Melgaço Silva Marques , Claudia Fonseca Alfaro , Slobodan Zdravkovic (Associate Professor in Public Health and Epidemiology at the Faculty of Health and Society, MAU)

Project leader: Guy Baeten


After waves of epidemic outbreaks in rapidly growing cities in Europe during the 19th century, public health concerns and the containment of epidemics became a key informant for housing provision, urban planning and urban design. The attention paid to public health and disease prevention in the 19th and early 20th century would culminate in modernist architecture and urban design that would become the standard for post-war housing schemes across the globe.  In Sweden, the Million Program, a national housing policy to provide the nation with affordable quality housing, had public health concerns at its very core. Concerns about public health and disease have given birth to modern housing schemes and urban planning and have informed it for many decades since. The tight connections between medical and epidemiological concerns on the one hand and housing provision and urban planning on the other hand, once so prominent, are now lost.

Pilot study

This pilot study seeks to answer three research questions:

  1. What is the relation between socio-spatial differences amongst the Swedish population, urban planning and the occurrence and spread of Covid-19?
  2. What immediate planning-related measures have been taken in various countries to fight Covid-19 and what proposals for further action have been launched globally and locally?
  3. How can the concern for public health, including the prevention of pandemics, take a more prominent place in contemporary and future urban planning?

Financing body: Malmö University (initiation grant) and the Institute for Urban Research