Urban environments, because of their density of contacts and their environmental conditions, have historically exacerbated public health crises and, in turn, promoted innovative solutions that are at the heart of progress in medicine and public health. I
will briefly review contemporary patterns of worldwide urbanization and an emerging interdisciplinary science of cities based on the interdisciplinary synthesis of ideas and models from epidemiology, geography, economics, sociology and other disciplines and
new empirical data. I will then introduce the Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation as a new major initiative at the University of Chicago to lead the effort to understand the forces that drive urbanization and urban development and to create new innovative
systemic policy interventions. In this light, I will highlight the need for a public health perspective in several problems of urban human sustainable development and its expansion and integration with new emerging ideas of cities as dynamical, evolving, heterogeneous
socio-economic networks embedded in complex built environments.