Inspiring Health
Transforming Care

Urban Health Incubator

Our Urban environments play a critical role in determining the health and well being of our community. The Urban Health Incubator brings together a diverse range of scientists to help highlight the role of the natural and built environment in health; and research ways to improve the positive influences it can have on residents.


The Ingham Institute for Applied Medical Research is based in one of the fastest growing areas of New South Wales, if not Australia.
A steady influx of people from around the world creates exciting and intriguing dynamics for demography, urban planning, and health and the built environment.

Issues like mobility and public transport, urban heat islands and climate change, fast rail and aviation developments, high density commercial and public developments, natural systems and ecological balance, food systems and nutrition, and many more, play out in the  vast urban sprawl that is south western Sydney.

The Urban Health Incubator (the ‘Incubator’) is a virtual meeting place for initiatives that include research and evaluation in addition to policy development in urban health, from a very local level (e.g., neighbourhood locational disadvantage programmes, and housing issues among Indigenous communities) to Regional level (regional equitable planning and distribution of services for residents), State and national level (multimodal connectedness where it matters, e.g., in aviation metroplexes), and even global developments (international networks of Healthy Cities, the urban health dimensions of the Sustainable Development Goals, etc.). The Incubator will look at concepts like ‘glocal health’ and ‘glurbanization’ but is also very much engaged with community concerns on the ground.

We intend the Urban Health Incubator to grow into a formal partnership for urban research and development. A first discussion document for this was developed in 2016 under the moniker HABEMUS (Latin – ‘we have’): Health And Built Environment Multi University and Service Collaboratory.

Areas of Research

Unfortunately, South West Sydney is home to some of the most disadvantaged communities  of New South Wales and Australia. The South Western Local Health District (SWSLHD) and UNSW Sydney’s  Centre for Health Equity Training, Research and Evaluation ( CHETRE) based at the Ingham Institute,  have a long-standing collaboration, engaging in action research and evidence generation on how to act on the social determinants of (equity in) health.

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Healthy Cities started in 1986 as a demonstration project in the European Region of the World Health Organization but quickly spread to now include thousands of cities around the globe that have signed up to eleven qualities they strive to attain.

The Urban Health Incubator is home to one of the foremost experts in global Healthy Cities evaluation, recently publishing a landmark book reviewing this international endeavour.

Global realist synthesis comparative research in this space continues, combined with the recent addition of a UNSW Scientia PhD Scholarship on health equity in South West Sydney Healthy Cities.


The transfomative infrastructure development of Western Sydney Airport creates an opportunity to see airports (and aviation) as engines of health.

Airports – as the ultimate engineered and design facility: no airport occurs naturally – can be shaped to enhance the determinants of health on many fronts.

In collaboration with local, national and international partners the Urban Health Incubator has conceptualised and validated this vision of a ‘Healthy Airport’ as
…an ever-evolving complex human enterprise
…centered on actions, policies and general governance arrangements
…that enable the efficient and timely movement of people, goods and services,
…both through aircraft using it as a departure and arrival base as well as in its terrestrial supply and waste chains,
…aimed at shaping all health creating conditions within its spatial, commercial and perceptual footprints
…..and responsive to the unique character and composition of the people and communities that live around and engage with the airport
…to maximise health potential and minimize health hazards.

This multi-disciplinary project is examining the effects of the urban environment on cardiovascular disease (CVD) outcomes.

This study will be among the first to investigate the associations between a broad range of neighbourhood environmental attributes (for example, walkability, greenspace, social capital) and CVD outcomes and one of the largest “mover-stayer” relocation study on any health outcome.

This study is being conducted with colleagues from the University of Sydney and Canberra University. Findings from the proposed study will provide the best available evidence in understanding the associations between neighbourhood environments and CVD, which will inform programs, policies, and planning initiatives for upstream population-level prevention.


The rates of diabetes are increasing world-wide. This international collaboration is investigating whether there is a relationship between greenspace and the incidence of diabetes. We are using information from existing cohorts from Australia, China and Germany, and harmonised methods to determine if the amount of neighbourhood greenspace impacts on the incidence of diabetes.

Researchers at the Urban Health Incubator have engaged with landscape architects, health district executives, Liverpool Council and the community in evaluating the health and well-being dimensions of the upcoming main hospital entrance redevelopment process.


De Leeuw (2017). Engagement of Sectors Other than Health in Integrated Health Governance, Policy, and Action. Annual Review of Public Health 38:329-49

Khayatzadeh-Mahani, A., Labonté, R., Ruckert, A. & E. De Leeuw (2017) Using sustainability as a collaboration magnet to encourage multi-sector collaborations for health. Global Health Promotion, First published online: March 29, 2017 DOI:

De Leeuw, E. (2017) Healthy Cities are back! (They were never gone) Health Promotion International, 32(4) 606–609,

De Leeuw, E. & J. Simos, eds. (2017) Healthy Cities – The Theory, Policy, and Practice of Value-Based Urban Planning. Springer, New York ISBN: 978-1-4939-6692-9 (Print) 978-1-4939-6694-3 (Online)

De Leeuw, E. (2017) Cities and Health from the Neolithic to the Anthropocene. pp 3-30 in: De Leeuw, E. & J. Simos, eds. (2017) Healthy Cities – The Theory, Policy, and Practice of Value-Based Urban Planning. Springer, New York ISBN: 978-1-4939-6692-9 (Print) 978-1-4939-6694-3 (Online)

De Leeuw, E. & J. Simos (2017) Healthy Cities Move to Maturity. pp 75-86 in: De Leeuw, E. & J. Simos, eds. (2017) Healthy Cities – The Theory, Policy, and Practice of Value-Based Urban Planning. Springer, New York ISBN: 978-1-4939-6692-9 (Print) 978-1-4939-6694-3 (Online)

De Leeuw, E., Stevenson, A., Jolley, G., McCarthy, S. & E. Martin (2017) Healthy Cities, Urbanisation, and Healthy Islands: Oceania. pp 315-337 in: De Leeuw, E. & J. Simos eds. (2017) Healthy Cities – The Theory, Policy, and Practice of Value-Based Urban Planning. Springer, New York ISBN: 978-1-4939-6692-9 (Print) 978-1-4939-6694-3 (Online)

Garden F, Jalaludin BB. Impact of urban sprawl on health in Sydney, Australia. Journal of Urban Health: Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine 2009;86(1):19-30. DOI: 10.1111/j.1471-0528.2008.01864.x.

Jalaludin B, Garden F. Does urban sprawl impact on self-rated health and psychological distress: a multilevel study from Sydney, Australia. EcoHealth 2011;8(3);268-276.

Jalaludin B, Maxwell M, Saddik B, Lobb E, Byun R, Gutierrez R, Paszek J. Evaluation of an urban renewal program in a socially disadvantaged precinct in Sydney, Australia. BMC Public Health 2012;12:521.

Chong S, Lobb E, Khan R, Abu-Rayya H, Rose N, Jalaludin B. Neighbourhood safety and area deprivation modify the associations between parkland and psychological distress in Sydney, Australia. BMC Public Health May 2013;13:422.

Mayne DJ, Morgan G, Willmore A, Rose N, Jalaludin B, Bambrick H, Bauman A. An objective index of walkability for research and planning in the Sydney Metropolitan Region of New South Wales, Australia: an ecological study. International Journal of Health Geographics 2013;12:61.

Marashi-Pour S, Cretikos M, Lyons C, Rose N, Jalaludin B, Smith J. The association between the density of retail tobacco outlets, individual smoking status, neighbourhood socioeconomic status and school locations in New South Wales, Australia. Spatial and Spatio-temporal Epidemiology 2015;12:1-7.

Astell-Burt T, Feng X, Kolt GS, Jalaludin B. Does rising crime lead to increasing distress? Longitudinal analysis of a natural experiment with dynamic objective neighbourhood measures. Social Science & Medicine 2015;138:68-73.

Cowie C, Ding M, Rolfe M, Mayne D, Jalaludin B, Bauman A, Morgan G. Neighbourhood walkability and traffic related air pollution in Sydney, Australia. Environmental Health 2016,15:58.

Chong S, Byun R, Mazumdar S, Bauman A, Jalaludin B. The impact of local and distant greenspace on physical activity in Sydney, Australia. Journal of Physical Activity and Health 2016 Oct 24:1-20.

Mazumdar SLearnihan VCochrane TPhung HO’Connor BDavey R. Is Walk Score associated with hospital admissions from chronic diseases? Evidence from a cross-sectional study in a high socioeconomic status Australian city-state. BMJ Open. 2016 Dec 8;6(12):e012548. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2016-012548.

Crawford B, Byun R, Mitchell E, Thompson S, Torvaldsen S, Jalaludin B. Socioeconomic differences in the cost, availability and quality of healthy food in Sydney. ANZJPH (in press – accepted 4 May 2017).

Mayne DJ, Morgan GG, Jalaludin BB, Bauman AE. The contribution of area-level walkability to geographic variation in physical activity: a spatial analysis of 95,837 participants from the 45 and Up Study living in Sydney, Australia. Population Health Metrics (in press – accepted 17 August 2017)

The Incubator, as a start-up facility, has a very light governance and management structure.

It is informally brought together by Professor Evelyne de Leeuw (CHETRE) and Professor Bin Jalaludin (SWSLHD).
If you are interested in joining our young, interdisciplinary and enthusiastic team, please contact us.

Professor Evelyne de Leeuw
P: +61 (0)2 87389311

Professor Bin Jalaludin
P: +61 (0)2 8738 6093


Healthy Cities – The Theory, Policy, and Practice of Value-Based Urban Planning.

Professor Evelyne de Leeuw and Professor Jean Simos

Professor Evelyne de Leeuw is the Director of the Institute’s Centre for Health Equity Training, Research and Evaluation CHETRE, and associated with World Health Organization Healthy Cities evaluations since 1986.

‘Healthy Cities – The Theory, Policy, and Practice of Value-Based Urban Planning’ was edited with University of Geneva based professor Jean Simos. In over 500 pages they take us on a tour around the world, visiting thousands of Healthy City initiatives in Oceania, Europe, Asia, the Americas and Africa.

With over 50 collaborators based in cities like Pecs, Pointe Noire, Noarlunga, Suva, Tokyo, Ulaan Bataar, Wujiang, Toronto, Villa el Salvador and many others they document a vibrant, localised, evidence-based and community driven movement that has a strong foundation in values like sustainability, equity and solidarity.

The first section of the book takes us through the history of this global phenomenon, from the earliest city based civilisations in the Levant through the Anthropocene and global urban networking.
The second section documents hundreds of case studies – looking at slum dwellers and sanitation in Africa and the Americas, sanitation and service delivery in Oceania, Europe and Asia, and health policy development anywhere.
The third section identifies challenges and solutions for local governments, communities and researchers in areas like governance, greening cities, community empowerment for policy development, joined-up research and Health in All Policies, etc.

Evelyne and Jean are already planning a second, fully revised edition with even more collaborators.

Read and contribute and order the book here.