07 April 2010

Urban planning essential for public health

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Urban settings have a direct impact on the health of the people who live there

On World Health Day WHO is launching a campaign to highlight urban planning as a crucial link to building a healthy 21st century. In particular, the Organization calls upon municipal authorities, concerned residents, advocates for healthy living and others to take a close look at health inequities in cities and take action.

The world is rapidly urbanizing with significant changes in our living standards, lifestyles, social behaviour and health. Thirty years ago, four out of every 10 people were living in cities, but by 2050 this number will grow to seven out of 10.

"In general, urban populations are better off than their rural counterparts. They tend to have greater access to social and health services and their life expectancy is longer. But cities can also concentrate threats to health such as inadequate sanitation and refuse collection, pollution, road traffic accidents, outbreaks of infectious diseases and also unhealthy lifestyles," says Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General.

Many cities face a triple threat: infectious diseases which thrive when people are crowded together; chronic, noncommunicable diseases including diabetes, cancers and heart disease which are on the rise with unhealthy lifestyles including tobacco use, unhealthy diets, physical inactivity and harmful use of alcohol and urban health is often further burdened by road traffic accidents, injuries, violence and crime.

(World Health Organization)

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