Wednesday, April 7th is World Health Day



April 7 is World Health Day.

This year’s theme for World Health Day is “1000 cities, 1000 lives.” The Day is set on April7, 2010 but events are planned worldwide from April 7 to 11.

Here are the global goals of World Health Day 2010:

•1000 cities: to open up public spaces to health, whether it be activities in parks, town hall meetings, clean-up campaigns, or closing off portions of streets to motorized vehicles.

•1000 lives: to collect 1000 stories of urban health champions who have taken action and had a significant impact on health in their cities.

So far, over 600 cities all over the world have already registered to join the campaign.

But why are we focusing on cities? These facts and figures from the World Health Organization tells us why:

  • More than 50% of the world’s population live in urban areas.
  • By 2030, 6 out of 10 people will be living in cities, by 2050 it will be 7 of out 10.
  • About a third of the world’s urban population (more than 1 billion people!) live in urban slums.
  • The rate at which urbanization has taken place over the last few decades is well-illustrated by a look at how long it took a city to grow from one million to eight million inhabitants. For London, this growth took around 130 years. For Bangkok, similar growth took 45 years. For Seoul, it took only 25 years.
  • Between 1995 and 2005 alone, the urban population of developing countries grew by an average of 1.2 million people per week, or around 165 000 people every day.
  • Most rapid growth will take place in cities of 1 to 10 million people; it is not just a megacity issue.
  • The speed of urbanization has outpaced the ability of governments to build essential infrastructures that make life in cities safe, rewarding, and healthy, particularly in low-income countries.

The speed of urbanization has outpaced the ability of governments to build essential infrastructures that make life in cities safe, rewarding, and healthy, particularly in low-income countries.

Problems that many urban dwellers have to deal with are:

  • Poor living conditions, including lack of housing, water and sanitation
  • Lack of access to social and health services
  • Increased risk for violence, chronic disease, and for some communicable diseases (e.g. HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, cholera)
  • Increased risk for chronic diseases due to lack of physical exercise, poor nutrition, and air pollution
  • Increase rates of psychological and behavioral problems among urban dwelling children.
  • Overcrowing, unemployment, cultutal dislocation and isolation
  • Increased rate of substance, tobacco, and alcohol abuse

To address these challenges, the World Health Day Campaign identified 5 key areas for action:

Urban planning promoting healthy behaviours and safety. Local governments and civil society can design urban areas to promote physical activity through investment in active transport; encourage healthy eating by managing availability and access to fresh food; and reduce violence and crime through good environmental design and regulatory controls, including managing the number of alcohol outlets.

Improve urban living conditions. Apply healthy urban design principles with easy access to basic amenities and services, designated commercial and non-commercial land use, with land also set aside for protection of natural resources and recreation. One of the biggest challenges is, of course, access to adequate shelter for all. The quality of housing and adequate access to services such as water and sanitation are vital contributors to health.

Participatory urban governance. Local participatory governance mechanisms should be established that enable communities and local governments to partner in building healthier and safer cities.

Inclusive cities are accessible and age-friendly. People with disabilities make up at least 10% of the population, and access barriers prevent participation in education, employment and public life. Globally, populations are rapidly ageing, leading to more older people, many of whom will experience mobility and sensory impairments. Measures such as accessible public transit, kerb cuts, safe pedestrian crossings (e.g. tactile paving, signaled controlled crossings) all improve safety and enhance participation for disabled and older persons.

Making urban areas resilient to emergencies and disasters. Improving the ability of the community to protect themselves from all types of hazards, and involving the health sector in community-led local emergency response planning and training, will help to reduce risks and provide a more effective emergency response. The development of settlements and infrastructure away from natural and technological hazard-prone areas, and safer health facilities which are prepared for emergencies will make communities safer. All-hazard health emergency management systems, with the ability to provide safe and secure health services, food and water, water, protection and shelter in humanitarian settings is needed to minimize loss of life and disabilities in emergencies, disaster and other crises.

Follow World Health Day Events by checking their social media site!

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Comments

  1. Another overwhelming issue not mentioned here that inhabitants of these cities will face is the need to acquire basic resources and to process waste. Overpopulation in general and concentrated populations will make access to water very challenging. Likewise, concentrated generation of air pollution, garbage and sewage are significant challenges with so many people all packed together. In cities with limited abilities to build adequate infrastructure, these problems will pose direct health impacts.

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