A majority of the world's population will live in urban areas by 2007 and cities are exerting growing influence on the health of both urban and non-urban residents. Although there long has been substantial interest in the associations between city living and health, relatively little work has tried to understand how and why cities affect population health. This reflects both the number and complexity of determinants and of the absence of a unified framework that integrates the multiple factors that influence the health of urban populations. This paper presents a conceptual framework for studying how urban living affects population health. The framework rests on the assumption that urban populations are defined by size, density, diversity, and complexity, and that health in urban populations is a function of living conditions that are in turn shaped by municipal determinants and global and national trends. The framework builds on previous urban health research and incorporates multiple determinants at different levels. It is intended to serve as a model to guide public health research and intervention.