You are now in the main content area

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

The new interdisciplinary Urban Health PhD program prepares graduates to become effective leaders in research, policy and practice. This interdisciplinary program offers learning innovation that empowers students to collaborate across disciplines, generate robust evidence and create responsive solutions to advance the health and well-being of diverse Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations living in urban centres. 

The significant health concerns related to urbanization require urgent attention and there is a pressing need to prepare qualified professionals across a variety of disciplines (e.g., social work, urban development, nursing, early childhood studies, occupational and public health, disability studies, midwifery, child and youth care, nutrition, geography, medicine, pharmacy, and dentistry) to critically examine the impact of urbanization and to collaboratively generate and evaluate the effectiveness of comprehensive solutions to improve the health of people living in urban centres. Within health care and related sectors such as education and public policy, a doctoral education is necessary for competitive pursuit of careers in top leadership and advisory positions.  

Students collaborating at a desk
Apply Now
  • Degree offered: PhD 
  • Length of program: 4 years
  • Accepting applications on a rolling basis
  • Admission Requirements

Research Domains

The values related to equity, resilience, collaboration and sustainability serve as a “lens” for studying the individual, social and environmental determinants of health by addressing issues related to health and wellbeing; safety and security; and migration, immigration, and settlement. The examples identified can be transferred between domains, which are intentionally kept broad to encompass a variety of topics. Refer to the next section for a detailed description of “lens” or which is defined as the theoretical underpinning of the program.

2 women picking fresh vegetables from a market stall
Health and well-being

Defined as a “state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. Within an urban environment, many personal and structural determinants related to urban living exist which impact on an individual’s overall health and well-being. These include but are not limited to:

  • 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
people working on a rooftop garden
Safety and security

Relates to “protecting people from critical (severe) and pervasive (widespread) threats”  and situations that can include, but are not limited to freedom from:

  • 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
large crowd in downtown street
Migration, immigration and settlement

The effect of migration, immigration and settlement processes on the health and well-being of individuals and communities can result in significant challenges that include but are not limited to:

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

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 issues1.  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: 4 years – The first student cohort will begin January 2021; the next intake will begin September 2022.

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.


Courses – Required Courses – There are 4 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.

UH9011 Research in Urban Health Settings: Methodological Issues, Strengths, and Opportunities

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.

UH9012 Pathways to Becoming a Successful Scientist – 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.

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.

Elective(s) - Students will take a minimum of one elective course. The elective course can be selected from the list of existing graduate courses (see below).  The elective course must have a clear link to the theoretical, substantive or methodological component of the dissertation and will need to be approved by the dissertation committee prior to course enrolment. Even though the number of courses required for successful completion is five, students may be encouraged to take additional electives depending on their overall level of substantive, theoretical, and methodological knowledge as identified by their dissertation committee.


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