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Discover the new Urban Health PhD — the only program of its kind in Canada

By United Nations estimates, 68% of the world’s population will live in large cities by the year 2050. Such rapid development has brought benefits, but also complex social and economic challenges — food and housing insecurity, social exclusion, increased inequities and many more.

City dwellers from diverse populations are experiencing significant impacts to their health and well-being. Comprehensive, innovative solutions are urgently needed. TMU’s interdisciplinary Urban Health PhD will train you to successfully meet the challenge.

As the effects of urbanization intensify, advanced opportunities may arise in health-care institutions, government agencies and private companies. The unique Urban Health degree equips you with doctoral-level qualifications to navigate cross-disciplinary research, policy and practice — and to compete for top leadership and advisory positions in health care and related sectors.

You’ll learn to drive change aimed at improving the health of people living in urban centres, including the skills to:

  • Critically examine the impacts of urbanization on health and well-being
  • Navigate complex organizational processes and systems
  • Collaborate productively with professionals from varied disciplines
  • Generate innovative, comprehensive solutions and evaluate their effectiveness
  • Gather robust evidence, present findings and influence decision makers

Research Domains

As a student in the PhD program, you will address important issues related to the individual, social and environmental determinants of health and well-being of urban dwellers — and through a lens reflecting four core values: equity, resilience, collaboration and sustainability.

Below are just some examples of the wide variety of potential research areas. Topics often overlap and can be transferred between the three broad domains.

people working on a rooftop garden
Health and well-being

Beyond the absence of disease or infirmity, research in this area helps city dwellers thrive physically, mentally and socially. You may choose to explore personal and structural factors determinants, such as:

  • Genetics
  • Social and health practices
  • Access to adequate housing, income, transportation
  • Culturally safe education and health/social care
  • Food security
  • Clean water, air and noise quality
  • Inclusive urban spatial planning and design
  • Community belonging
Bustling streetscape at Yonge and Dundas
Safety and security

In densely populated contexts, city dwellers may face severe, widespread threats that put their health and well-being at risk. You may choose to research solutions aimed at providing freedom from situations such as:

  • Crime and violence
  • Prejudice and discrimination
  • Social exclusion
  • Exposure to toxins/chemicals
  • Poverty
  • Under housing/homelessness
  • Insanitation
  • Social, political and economic inequities related to systemic racism and colonialism
Two men talking in an urban setting
Migration, immigration and settlement

As individuals and families relocate to urban centres around the globe, they often experience short- and long-term impacts to health and well-being. You may research solutions to meet the challenges of resettlement, such as:

  • Displacement
  • Pre-migration trauma
  • Undocumented status
  • Settlement and acculturation stress
  • Downward social mobility
  • Precarious employment and labor market integration
  • Racism and social exclusion

Find your path to leadership in research, policy and practice

If you’re a professional in one of the following fields, the Urban Health PhD program may be right for you: allied health, nursing, health promotion, occupational and public health, disability studies, social work, psychology, early childhood studies, child and youth care, library science, urban development, geography, nutrition, medicine and pharmacy, among others.

Urbanization, which began with industrialization, has intensified over the past few decades under the complex social, economic and political forces associated with globalization, neoliberalism and advanced capitalism. Neoliberal market-oriented policies, adopted by many nations around the world, have contributed to increased environmental degradation, economic inequities, social vulnerabilities and health disparities. Thus, to effectively define the evidence and research direction for urban health priorities, a theoretical frame of reference is needed to explain how the urban context may affect health; and to identify strategies for addressing health related issues.  Urban health is the health and disease of a population that is a result of exposure to populations living in highly dense settings.  

Values are the fundamental guides and stimuli for action. They underpin the curriculum and are the standards, principles, and judgements in which the curriculum is rooted. The values that underpin the Urban Health PhD program include: equity, resilience, collaboration, and sustainability.  

Upon completion of this interdisciplinary program, graduates will be able to:  

  1. Work collaboratively with team members from a variety of disciplines and professions to develop innovative, sustainable strategies and solutions to challenges pertaining to urban populations that can relate to health and well-being; safety and security; and/or migration, immigration and settlement. 
  2. Engage in clear, effective and respectful collaborative interpersonal communication with professionals and other members of diverse and equity seeking teams and communities in urban health settings. 
  3. Verbally present, discuss and defend information, reasoned arguments, sustainable strategies and solutions, as well as research findings; clearly and concisely for an audience from diverse disciplines and professions. 
  4. Write clearly, concisely and effectively for research, policies, and urban community audiences on issues pertaining to equity, resilience, collaboration and sustainability within urban health. 
  5. Plan, design and implement innovative and advanced research studies in response to complex challenges and issues relating to urban health. 
  6. Reflect, discuss and apply critical reasoning to the generation, selection and application of theories, methodologies and empirical knowledge to address fundamental urban health questions in the primary area of study that can relate to health and well-being; safety and security; and/or migration, immigration and settlement. 
  7. Lead research that is ethically sound, and demonstrates initiative, as well as personal and professional responsibility.

Expected duration: four years.

Year 1



  • UH9010
  • UH9012
  • Dissertation Work

Optional: Elective Course



  • UH9011
  • UH9012
  • Dissertation Work

Optional: Elective Course

Spring Summer  


  • Dissertation Work

Optional: Elective Course

 Year 2



  • Dissertation Work
  • Candidacy Exam Preparation



  • Candidacy Exam

Spring Summer  


  • Dissertation Work
Year 3



  • Dissertation Work



  • UH9013
  • Dissertation Work

Spring Summer 


  • UH9013
  • Dissertation Work
Year 4



  • Dissertation Work
  • Final Dissertation Exam Preparation



  • Dissertation Work
  • Final Dissertation Exam Preparation

Spring Summer 


  • Final Dissertation Exam 

All courses run 36 hours per semester, 3 hours per week for 12 weeks for one term.  The exceptions are UH9012 and UH9013 that are scheduled for alternate weeks over two terms.

Course delivery will consist of face-to-face interactions within and outside the classroom; with the supervisor (and co-supervisor, if applicable) and supervisory committee; and independent learning with faculty supervision in the form of a dissertation.


There are four required core courses:

UH9010 Theories and Concepts in Urban Health
This course will review theoretical issues relating to urban health that include: health equity, primary health care, and urban health systems. Specifically, principles pertaining to the development and testing of theories and concepts will be presented. Students will be expected to demonstrate a critical analysis of the relevance and applicability of urban health theories and concepts throughout their assignments. As well, the inter-relationship between major global trends, municipal level determinants, urban living conditions, urban health systems, and outcomes will be examined and applied to inter-disciplinary based case studies and small group activities. 1 Credit

UH9011 Research in Urban Health Settings
This course will examine the issues, strengths, and opportunities that arise through interdisciplinary team research, as well as specific methodological issues that commonly arise in urban health research (e.g., recruitment of hard-to-reach samples, obtaining consent, collecting data, measurement, strategies to enhance enrollment and completion of research among diverse populations).Students will engage in activities that include: creation of a report of a research study derived from existing datasets and/or qualitative data (e.g. faculty members own research or data available at the local, provincial or federal level), as well as evaluation of study quality and rigor using a defined framework reflective of the study methodology. 1 credit

UH9012 Seminar
Students will be required to attend a seminar every other week, during their first year. The goals are to 1) promote inter-professional collaboration in the understanding of urban health concerns and issues and in generating relevant solutions; and 2) socialize students and prepare them to assume the role of clinical scientist. The seminar will involve meaningful academic activities, including guest presentations on topics related to Issues pertaining to Urban Health and Interprofessional Collaboration; student presentations of their collaborative work in understanding and finding solutions to urban health concerns; and participating in class-based collaborative reviews of papers and proposals. 1 Credit

UH9013 Data Analysis in Urban Health Research
This course focuses on the theory, techniques and issues of data (quantitative and qualitative) analysis and interpretation. Topics addressed include points of focus in analyzing text data, tools for helping to analyze data (summaries, self-memos, and research diaries), and common qualitative (thematic content, narrative, and discourse analyses) and quantitative descriptive (chi-square and regression) and inferential (t-tests, analysis of variance, structural equation modelling) analyses. Students are expected to have their own data to work with, ideally from their own dissertation projects. 1 Credit

For course descriptions of non UH courses, go to the Program offering the course. CY – Child and Youth Care MN – Nursing NC – Nutrition Communication PL – Urban Development SK – Social Work



Course Code

Course Title

Child and Youth Care


Management and Policy Development in Child & Youth Care



Quantitative Research Methods: Design and Critical Appraisal



Qualitative Research Methods: Design and Critical Appraisal



Individuals and Families Experience with Health and Illness: Theoretical Perspectives



Population Health and Health Promotion: Community and Global Perspectives



Health Policy: A Comparative Analysis



Leadership in Education



Diversity and Globalization: Promoting Urban Health



Interprofessional Health Education



Theory and Practice of Program Planning and Evaluation



Advanced Therapeutic Communication: An InterProfessional Perspective

Nutrition Communication


Epidemiology for Nutrition Research and Interpretation



Nutrition and Health Behaviour



Nutrition Communication Strategies



Food and Nutrition Policy



Knowledge Translation

Social Work


Critical Perspectives on Mental Health

Urban Development


Housing & Redevelopment 



Contemporary Urban Design



Parks in the Contemporary City



Environmental Planning



Transportation Planning

Candidacy Exam - Students will be required to pass a Candidacy Examination that includes the completion and successful oral examination of the dissertation proposal during their second year (5th term of enrolment) in the PhD Program.

Details about the exam procedures to be added in the future. 

Dissertation - Once the student has passed the Candidacy Exam, they will be required to undertake an original study. This research will culminate in the student writing a dissertation and defending it through a final PhD Oral Examination no later than their twelfth term of enrolment in the PhD Program. 

Details about the defense and exam procedures to be added in the future.

Meet our Students

Healing Indigenous childhoods by working together

Anishinaabe ways of knowing and being are central to Urban Health PhD student Dawn-Estelle Miskokomon’s advocacy