SINGAPORE (May 13): Global cities from Sydney to Singapore are increasingly being planned and transformed in ways that further embrace diversity and inclusivity.

For Sydney, its Sustainable Sydney 2030 goals are the cornerstone of everything it does. The city has adopted a holistic, inclusive approach to investing in public infrastructure, such as new parks, cultural and community spaces, childcare facilities, libraries and aquatic centres to cater for diverse groups and attract new residents to work and live in Sydney.

Singapore, meanwhile, cultivates inclusiveness through its public housing policy. The Housing Development Board of Singapore plans townships that incorporate accessible facilities from town centres down to neighbourhoods and precinct level. In addition, as highlighted by Cheong Koon Hean, CEO of HDB, in the World Cities Summit 2018: “To promote inclusiveness even more, we mix people of all income levels, ethnicities and age groups within our housing blocks.” Therefore, HDB’s ethnic integration policy actively ensures that ethnic enclaves do not develop within neighbourhoods.

But what is a truly inclusive city? The United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), which takes the lead globally in working towards a better urban future for all, defines inclusive cities as those that “promote growth with equity” — places where everyone, regardless of their economic means, gender, race, ethnicity or religion, is enabled and empowered to fully participate in the social, economic and political opportunities that the cities have to offer.

Inclusive cities may thus be understood as arising from a complex web of spatial, social and economic factors. The Spatial Inclusivity dimension includes components such as affordable housing, water and sanitation. The Social Inclusivity dimension involves equal rights and participation of all, including the most marginalised. Last, but equally important, the Economic Inclusivity dimension is concerned with creating jobs and giving urban residents fair opportunities to enjoy the benefits of economic growth.

Key in addressing this complex web is the need for participatory planning and decision-making, especially among diverse and minority groups. As noted by Mitchell Silver, Park Commissioner of New York City at the World City Summit in 2014, “In the past, people were very comfortable with spatial planning but now we understand that people are at the heart of planning.” For example, in the context of the US, there is certainly more diversity in its cities: With people living longer, there is now a wider range of age groups and more people with different disabilities. There are also more single parents and fewer married couples. As a result, US cities are changing the way they plan by addressing the concerns of different groups. Silver believes this is not unique to the US, and predicts the rise of “the equitable city”, in which being inclusive by embracing diversity is unavoidable, owing to structural demographic changes.

Inclusive health and wellness

As we seek to create equitable and inclusive cities, a crucial sector is inclusive health and wellness.

By applying UN-Habitat’s definition of an inclusive city, inclusive healthcare and wellness is best understood as physical places empowered by social institutions and economic systems where everyone, regardless of their economic means, gender, race, ethnicity or religion, is enabled and empowered to meet their needs for greater health and wellness.

An interesting global healthcare project that exhibits inclusive health and wellness for all is the Indus Hospital in Pakistan. Driven by the vision of its co-founder and CEO, Dr Bari Khan, to have “a Pakistan where no one has to sell their belongings or become homeless in pursuit of healthcare”, the hospital has become a major game changer that provides free, yet quality, healthcare services to the underserved population of Pakistan.

The Indus Hospital began operations with 150 beds in 2007 after renovating a building and the land on which it sits in Karachi’s Korangi District that was donated by Pakistan’s Islamic Mission Trust. In 2012, the hospital appointed CPG Consultants for its hospital planning and design expertise to provide the blueprint for an expansion of the hospital into an academic medical campus on an 8ha site in Karachi.

Comprehensive master plan

CPG translated the hospital’s vision of an academic medical campus into a comprehensive development master plan that transformed a 150-bed hospital into a free and accessible 1,800-bed healthcare system that would create a platform for collaboration between healthcare, medical research and education.

The new medical campus promotes accessibility in the following ways:

•             Economic sustainability: The Indus Hospital is a self-sustaining system that relies solely on public donations, mainly from Pakistanis residing in and outside the country. Its sound financial governance and comprehensive development phasing plan has raised more awareness among local and global communities, resulting in more donations coming in. Today, the hospital has developed an international system to obtain financing from its US, UK, Canada and United Arab Emirates chapters. With an economically sustainable future, it is able to keep its healthcare services free for all.

•             Quality: With its synergy of healthcare, medical education and research, the Indus Hospital’s academic medical campus provides a platform for partnerships and collaborations with national and international specialists and research and training programmes. It also offers postgraduate medical education and a wide array of continuing education programmes for healthcare professionals. To further increase the hospital’s knowledge base and improve patient care, the hospital hosts research programmes so as to develop cost-effective solutions for underprivileged communities.

•             Geography: Having firmly established itself in Karachi, the Indus Hospital has evolved into a network of hospitals (the Indus Health Network) that is spread across Pakistan. Some are solely owned and managed by Indus Hospital, while others operate through a public-private partnership agreement with provincial governments. With early detection and prevention being important components of a holistic healthcare system, the Indus Health Network has also initiated a number of public health outreach programmes across 41 districts in Pakistan.

The Indus Hospital and Indus Health Network are an essential case study for the formulating of more equitable healthcare not only in Pakistan but also globally. As a non-profit entity, it amalgamates important elements such as built infrastructure, public donations and medical expertise to create a self-sustaining system that empowers and enables Pakistanis to obtain free quality healthcare. By eradicating barriers to quality treatment, it gives more people access to healthcare regardless of their economic background.

The Indus Hospital and Indus Health Network have facilitated inclusivity in healthcare and progress towards an equitable Pakistan. As the notion of inclusivity in cities gains more prominence, calls for innovative multidisciplinary solutions for health and wellness have similarly gained traction. In gathering diverse stakeholders in the upcoming Shape the World Summit 2019, we aim to enable the exchange of multidisciplinary thoughts through a design thinking approach, thereby deriving new insights on shaping inclusive and equitable health and wellness systems and, in turn, cities.


CPG Consultants, a leading multidisciplinary infrastructure and building management consultancy in Asia-Pacific, will focus on the ideas and global projects behind creating equitable cities through urban planning, health and wellness, and education in the Shape the World Summit 2019 on June 20 and 21. Dr Bari Khan, co-founder and CEO of the Indus Hospital, will speak at the summit on Day 2.

Tan Shao Yen is group chief innovation officer of CPG Corp and Lim Lip Chuan is CPG Consultants’ senior vice-president for healthcare

This story appears in The Edge Singapore (Issue 881, week of May 13) which is on sale now. Subscribe here