Complex Urban Systems for Sustainability and Health (CUSSH)

The Complex Urban Systems for Sustainability and Health (CUSSH) is a four-year Wellcome Trust funded project that will deliver key global research on the systems that connect urban development and health. Alongside partner cities in France, China and Kenya the project will assist decision-makers and the public about areas of development that afford the greatest opportunities for health and sustainability. 

The negative environmental consequences of human activity represent an unprecedented threat to human health and well-being. Yet, to date no city has succeeded in implementing a pathway of development that is consistently and demonstrably on track to deliver long-term environment and health goals that fulfill both local needs and the increasingly urgent imperatives for planetary health.

Led led by University College London (UCL), the CUSSH consortium comprises 12 international research partners including IIASA.

The CUSS project will:

  • Articulate the opportunities for achieving major health and sustainability objectives through urban development; 
  • Use research evidence to inform decision-makers and the public about the pathways of development that provide the greatest opportunities for health and sustainability, and to track progress towards the fulfilment of agreed goals; 
  • Identify the methods and factors crucial to successful implementation of development strategies that take full account of the needs and opportunities for health and sustainability in urban living. 

CUSSH' transdisciplinary research approach will address the unprecedented constellation of changes affecting urban environments as complex systems and threatening future progress, including population growth and movement, climate change and natural disaster risks, declining natural resources, environmental pollution, emerging diseases and inequalities.

The transformative changes crucial to address these challenges go well beyond actions so far achieved by any city. For higher income settings they include: the complete de-carbonization of all main energy sources; the replacement of fossil fuels as the energy carrier for ground transportation combined with a quantum shift in travel behaviour; dramatic improvements in the energy efficiency of housing, commercial buildings and industrial processes; and adaptations to infrastructure and support systems to improve resilience to current and evolving environmental threats such as extreme heat, flood risks, and the spread of vector-borne disease. Particularly in low- and middle-income settings, additional actions include improvement in access to basic services and infrastructure, and profound reduction of household and community environmental exposures, including those relating to air pollution, unsafe water and physical security. Combining context specific interventions that address the range of challenges offers unparalleled opportunities for population health and sustainability.

CUSSH aims to develop system-wide understanding of how those opportunities can be realised through development and implementation of evidence-informed solutions in areas such as energy provision, transport infrastructure and operation, green infrastructure, health systems, housing and water and sanitation.

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Last edited: 20 June 2018


Gregor Kiesewetter

Senior Research Scholar Pollution Management Research Group - Energy, Climate, and Environment Program


2018 - 2021

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Schlossplatz 1, A-2361 Laxenburg, Austria
Phone: (+43 2236) 807 0 Fax:(+43 2236) 71 313