urban health, neighbourhood sustainability, urban wellbeing, social sustainability


In the contemporary world we are facing four megatrends: population growth, population ageing, international migration and urbanization. All these trends interest both developed countries and developing ones, even if there are some differences and disparities among them. Moreover, they directly affect the sustainable development of nations and consequently have influence on people health and wellbeing.

Paying attention on developed countries, and in particular on European (and Italian) cities, urbanization and population ageing are the two main issues to be considered. In fact, here the number of over 65 years old people is growing exponentially and in 2018 it has overpassed the number of under 5 children. In addition, elderly cohort will exceed the 15-24 one by 2050 (UN, 2019a). 

The number of people living in urban contexts will increase, reaching about 68% of the world population (UN, 2019b). This estimation means that cities and their public spaces have to be the core of the sustainable development to guarantee equity, health and wellbeing to the citizens. In fact, rapid urbanization exacerbates environmental problems, inadequate basic services, urban sprawl, differences in opportunities for people.

For this reason, it is necessary to recognize the centrality of people in urban transforming processes by providing equal opportunities for all looking at 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and specifically to the 11th goal Making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable (UN, 2015). The purpose of this goal is to ensure access to housing and good public spaces and improve a more inclusive urban planning through adequate public transport and social cohesion.

According to Fusco Girard (2006, p. 48) «the city that promotes sustainable human development is a city in which the human person, in the relational-community dimension is at the centre with its inalienable rights (health, quality environment, work, culture). It promotes integration from its neighbourhoods which reproduce a network of many micro-communities». Neighbourhood is the “ideal urban dimension” where innovation and public investments are possible.

Therefore, this paper focuses on neighbourhood scale to look at health and wellbeing for people in urban contexts. Specifically, it aims to analyse some of the main Neighbourhood Sustainability Assessment (NSA) tools to underline whether and how the use of them can improve urban wellbeing recognising in social sustainability the key to do that.