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CITIES, HEALTH and COVID-19: Initial reflections and future challenges

Call for immediate contributions: Expression of interests by 3 April 2020

The public health crisis caused by the rapid spread of COVID-19 is having very profound impacts on societies throughout the world, and will continue to do so for years to come. We are currently in the midst of an emergency. The day-to-day actions of health providers, government, communities and individuals will shape the impact of COVID-19, as has been the case with other pandemics and epidemics. While we do not want to detract from this emergency response, there is a need to capture the initial insights and potential for innovations for urban health as they emerge. These will be valuable in reflecting later on the wider implications that this crisis provokes for long-term approaches to public health, for the way we manage and design our cities, and how the agendas of public health and urbanism can be shaped together for the future.

The Routledge journal Cities & Health is calling for up to 10 short ‘think-piece’ style contributions on a variety of topics that reflect on the impact the current crisis at the intersection of urban management, public health and the way citizens live in cities. As such, we are seeking short reflections on a variety of topics to undergo rapid review and publication to be brought together in a short-themed section of the journal that will inform practitioners and researchers wanting to gain further insight on the issues raised.


We have identified the following potential topics that may be covered. We welcome contributions that use COVID-19 and/or lessons from other pandemics, epidemics or communicable health risk (such as Zika, Ebola, TB, vector-borne diseases).

Grand challenges

  • Dual challenges and tensions between addressing communicable and non-communicable diseases through urban planning, design and development;
  • Health Inequalities; including impacts and consequences on different social groups, including those based on gender, age (older adults/children), those with underlying health issues or disabilities;
  • Views from specific perspectives (Global North, Global South, China, Italy, etc.);
  • Lessons for the global climate and biodiversity emergencies.

Urbanism and health

  • Urban form, urban design and connectivity;
  • Housing quality and residential environments;
  • Urban food systems and access to local services;
  • Civic engagement and the city as a social space;
  • Indirect health consequences of lockdown and home working.

Urban governance and knowledge generation for health

  • Urban governance, crisis management and novel collaborative responses;
  • Innovative approaches to evidence-gathering and urban experimentation;
  • Effectiveness of regulatory regimes across sectoral silos;
  • Processes of systemic lesson learning and trans-disciplinary knowledge exchange.

We welcome variations on, and additions to, the topics above.


Contributions should be 500-1000 words long and seek to address important questions relating to the long term implications of COVID-19 and other pandemics or epidemics, such as:

  • How has COVID-19 and the response to it had an impact on this topic?
  • What strengths/weaknesses has this crisis highlighted about how cities have traditionally handled this issue?
  • How does this crisis make us think differently about this topic? What radical alternatives may arise from it?
  • What are the future challenges and research questions that need to be explored for this topic following the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic?

Expression of interest and timings

Accepted contributions will be published online, with free access, as soon as possible. We are seeking expressions of interest on the above topics (or variations on them) no later than Friday 3rd April by 1700 UTC. We will have a rolling programme of confirming participation until Friday 10th April 2020, with full drafts for peer review expected two weeks after we confirm your involvement.

Expressions of interest should be sent to Prof Geraint Ellis ([email protected]) no later than 1700 UTC on Friday 3rd April and consist of:

  • A title relating to the topics highlighted above (c15-20 words);
  • A short abstract highlighting how you would address this topic, encompassing some of the questions above (c200 words);
  • A short biopic of the author or author group (c 100-140 words) or link to an institutional web page.

Special call partners:

ISUH www.isuh.org International Society for Urban Health

Design Council www.designcouncil.org.uk Architecture and the Built Environment Department

BOVA network www.bovanetwork.org Building out vector-borne diseases in sub-Saharan Africa

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