Cities as healthy habitats

Opportunities to create healthier cities

Expected early 2018

Background and request for advice

Developing cities into healthy habitats is an important theme. This advisory report was prompted on the one hand by the opportunities that may be found in the further promotion of health benefits in cities (health as a new factor of consideration in spatial planning), and on the other hand by the need to prevent further health damage and loss for city residents, particularly for groups who are already faced with relative health inequalities.

The Environmental Planning Act (Omgevingswet) – which will enter into effect in 2019 – defines a healthy human environment as an overarching societal objective, and requires government authorities to consider health interests in environmental visions and plans. The themes covered in the advisory report are therefore topical.

picture: Nationale Beeldbank

Main question

To what extent can the human environment contribute to the health of city residents? What role can the central government and other government authorities play? How can innovative interventions to protect and particularly promote health in cities be applied elsewhere through accelerated upscaling?


  1. What is the relationship between the human environment and health? Does an urban environment contribute to or damage the health of city residents?
  2. What are some examples of innovative interventions that help create a healthy human environment? Which opportunities and obstacles are presented by the various intervention and upscaling methods?
  3. What role should government (i.e. central government and provincial and municipal authorities) play in the upscaling of innovative interventions for healthier cities? Are there any dilemmas? What role may be played in this regard by the Environmental Planning Act and environmental vision documents at various levels of government? 


This advisory report starts from the observation that many activities are already being undertaken to create healthier cities. Cities have a great deal of local dynamism, and many promising and successful new ways have been found to develop a healthier urban environment. The advisory report wishes to take these local interventions and initiatives as its starting point, and examine what is needed to utilise these opportunities most effectively and make cities healthier places to live. In which cities are innovative interventions being undertaken, what do they entail, and how can stakeholders learn from interventions in one particular city that will allow them to also be applied elsewhere, in other cities?

The advisory report uses a broad definition of ‘health’. Following the lead of the World Health Organisation, ‘health’ in this advisory report is defined not just as the absence of illness or other physical disabilities, but as the sum of the physical, mental and social well-being of citizens. In this report, a ‘healthy habitat’ is defined as a human environment that 1) protects people (against disease, calamities and accidents), 2) promotes healthy behaviour (including exercise, relaxation and play), and 3) supports people’s independence and ability to participate in society.

Expected date of publication

This advisory report is expected to be published in early 2018.

Composition of advisory committee

Ellen Peper, committee chair

Prof. Dr Pieter Hooimeijer

Sybren Bosch MSc, junior member

Dr Leendert van Bree

Information or response: 

If you wish to respond or would like further information, please contact project leader Lianne van Duinen at (link sends e-mail).