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Thank Laura for your post on “Designing our Neighbourhoods to Promote Health and Well-being” – the aspect I found that is inspiring was the question you pointed out “what can urban designers do to promote health and collective well-being?” I would like to expend further of your contents. Comparing with Americas, I’m going to show cases that how East Asia’s cities improve health quality and collective well-being by urban design.


Base on the definition of urban design by Childs in 2010 – “…the design and shaping of part of settlements such as the relationships between multiple built-forms, buildings typologies, public space, street and other infrastructure.” Though there are still a lot of elements that affect cities. (such as neighborhood condition, social environment, service environment that Laura had clearly pointed out.) In essence, I believe urban design especially focuses on the aspects of using spatial design to deal with cities’ issue.

Cities in East Asia,

Most cities in East Asia are with super high density of population. (ex: Seoul, Tokyo, Shanghai, Hong Kong…etc.) Those cities have had a common issue – high proportion of disease. Several researchers found the growing rate of physical disease in crowded cities is rooted in mental health. Dr. Brock Chisholm, a psychiatrist and the first general director of the World Health Organization (WHO) had also stated that

“[W]ithout mental health there can be no true physical health.”

Take Japan as an instance.

Tokyo City faces the most serious problem of mental health. Mental illness has accounted for approximately a quarter of all disease in 2016. In this situation, urban designers, planners and architects more focus on built environment. They also collected six key elements for better public mental health including:

  • Streetparks,
  • Superblocks,
  • Active transport,
  • Social exercise,
  • Interior placemaking,
  • Suicide-prevention design. (Japan are with the fifth-highest suicide rate in the world due to its mental health.)

Not only participating in communities to accompany them, these people with spatial profession also designate green spaces, design active spaces, plan the route of public transport after they recognize the factors of improving mental health. During the process, architects, planners and designers collaborate with each other to shape a friendly city by using laws, strategies, architectures, outer environment and transport system. Nowadays, the mental health of Tokyo has been improved step by step thanks to their endeavor.


Thank Laura again for the inspiring post that pushed me think deeper about what urban design can do to make cities better. In my opinion, due to the sophisticate city system, there are a lot of factors affecting and shaping a city in various aspects. However, only architects and urban design and planning can really shape the form of a city in the physical environmental aspect. Moreover, urban design is more like a bridge connecting between them to point out the issues that might easily be ignored or hard to be noticed.


Centre for Urban Design and Mental Health. (2017). Tokyo, urban design and mental health – Journal of Urban Design and Mental Health. [online] Available at:—tokyo-case-study.html [Accessed 18 Jan. 2019].

Childs, M. (2010). A Spectrum of Urban Design Roles. Journal of Urban Design, 15(1), pp.1-19.

Outline for a Study Group on World Health and the Survival of the Human Race. Material drawn from articles and speeches by Brock Chisholm. Geneva: World Health Organization; 1954. Available at:…/ChisholmBrock_1953_Compilation.pdf [Accessed 18 Jan. 2019].

theOECD. (2019). Health status – Suicide rates – OECD Data. [online] Available at: [Accessed 18 Jan. 2019]. (n.d.). Bureau of Urban Development Tokyo Metropolitan Government | 東京都都市整備局. [online] Available at: [Accessed 17 Jan. 2019].

Why does Japan have such a high suicide rate?. [online] Available at: [Accessed 17 Jan. 2019].

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