The history, geography, and sociology of slums and the health problems of people who live in slums

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


  • Alex Ezeh
  • Oyinlola Oyebode
  • David Satterthwaite
  • Yen-Fu Chen
  • Robert Ndugwa
  • Jo Sartori
  • Blessing Mberu
  • G J Melendez-Torres
  • Tilahun Haregu
  • Waleska Caiaffa
  • Anthony Capon

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • University of the Witwatersrand
  • University of Warwick
  • International Institute for Environment and Development
  • UN Complex
  • African Population and Health Research Center
  • Federal University of Minas Gerais
  • United Nations University


Massive slums have become major features of cities in many low-income and middle-income countries. Here, in the first in a Series of two papers, we discuss why slums are unhealthy places with especially high risks of infection and injury. We show that children are especially vulnerable, and that the combination of malnutrition and recurrent diarrhoea leads to stunted growth and longer-term effects on cognitive development. We find that the scientific literature on slum health is underdeveloped in comparison to urban health, and poverty and health. This shortcoming is important because health is affected by factors arising from the shared physical and social environment, which have effects beyond those of poverty alone. In the second paper we will consider what can be done to improve health and make recommendations for the development of slum health as a field of study.

Bibliographic note

Copyright © 2017 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)547-558
Number of pages12
JournalThe Lancet
Issue number10068
Publication statusPublished - 4 Feb 2017


  • Health Status Disparities, Humans, Poverty Areas, Socioeconomic Factors