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The impact of rapid urbanisation on health in Chinese mega-cities

This project aims to facilitate a broader and deeper understanding of health and rapid urbanisation, and to create cross-disciplinary and cross-country links to underpin future training and research collaboration.

China lives in the age of the megacity (cities with a population of more than 10 million). Rapid urbanisation in these large urban areas is increasingly linked with poor planning and a lack of pollution-reduction measures, both of which have severe impacts on public health.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has described recent smog in China as a “health crisis”. This is particularly relevant to the disadvantaged poor and how we decide to meet the challenges of rapid urbanisation will have a strong impact on population health and quality of life in future.

Interactions between people’s health and the built environment are complex and can hold unintended consequences. Increasing evidence points to rapid urbanisation as a source of poor health via unintended consequences such as poorly planned urban sprawl, a lack of access to infrastructure and widening inequalities, especially for the disadvantaged poor. Thus solutions to health problems need to be sourced from areas such as urban planning in addition to medical innovation.

Systems approaches with an emphasis on local contextual factors (i.e. place-based thinking), along with complexity theory have the potential to uncover causes and so help to improve population health.

Workshop in Xiamen, November 2017

Under the British Council Researcher Links scheme offered within the Newton Fund, a workshop will be held in Xiamen, China on November 27-29, 2017 to explore these issues and potential solutions. The workshop is hosted by Cardiff University, Swansea University and the Institute of Urban Environment, Chinese Academy of Science (CAS-IUE), and coordinated by Professor Terry Marsden (Cardiff University, UK) and Professor Yongguan Zhu (CAS-IUE, China).

This interdisciplinary workshop aims to facilitate a broader and deeper understanding of systems thinking, complexity theory and place-based methods, in relation to health and rapid urbanization, and to create cross-disciplinary and cross-country links to underpin future training and research bids. It will bring together 40 researchers (up to 10 years post-PhD research experience) from China and the UK with research interests relevant to urbanisation and environmental health to interact, learn from each other and explore opportunities for building long-lasting research collaborations.


The British Council and National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) will cover the costs related to participation in the workshop, including: international and local travel, accommodation, visas and meals.

To apply (researchers based in the UK only), please see the call for participants and workshop application forms.

The deadline for application is 20 May 2017.

About the Newton Fund

The Newton Fund is now a £735 million fund, which through science and innovation partnerships, promotes the economic development and social welfare of partnering countries. It aims to strengthen science and innovation capacity and unlock further funding through which the UK and partner countries will build strong, sustainable and systemic relationships. The Fund is delivered through 15 UK delivery partners in collaboration with the partner countries.

Find out more about the Newton Fund.


Project team

Cardiff University

Professor Terry Marsden

Professor Terry Marsden

Emeritus Professor

+44 (0)29 2087 5736
Dr Yi Gong

Dr Yi Gong

Research Fellow

+44(0) 29 2087 0955

Swansea University

Dr Joel Deardon

Dr Joel Dearden

Lecturer in Human Geography

Institute of Urban Environment (IUE), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS)

Professor Yongguan Zhu

Professor Yongguan Zhu

Director General

Dr Franz Gatzweller

Executive Director, Urban health and wellbeing programme

Dr Yi Zhang

Science Officer, Urban health and wellbeing programme