City Living: World Health Day 2010 Focuses on Urban HealthApril 7, 2010 By Julien KatchinoffWorld Health Day, the World Health Organization, with its partners around the globe, today launched an initiative for healthly lives in urban settings, through the theme “1000 Cities, 1000 Lives.” “We are at a critical turning point in history where we can make a difference,” said Dr Ala Alwan, assistant director-general for noncommunicable diseases and mental health.
Since the first World Health Day 60 years ago, the world has seen a dramatic rural exodus. Today, more people live in urban areas than anywhere else. Providing healthy livelihoods for the urban poor is a challenge, as poverty-stricken urban centers face a number of health obstacles, from high child mortality rates, environmental pollution, and widespread disease, to a lack of access to basic water, sanitation, and health care.
“In general, urban populations are better off than their rural counterparts,” said WHO Director-General Margaret Chan. “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.”
The 1000 Cities campaign hopes to encourage all cities to promote healthy activities during the week following World Health Day (4/7-4/11). Through a new website, the WHO is collecting profiles and pictures in an easy-to-navigate map. Notable activities include HIV/AIDS-awareness flashmobs, skateboarding and cycling competitions, car-free days, outdoor sports events, and dance performances, in cities as diverse as Mandalgobi, Mongolia; Bangalore, India; and Luanda, Angola.
The Wilson Center’s Environmental Change and Security Program and its Comparative Urban Studies Program have collaborated on urbanization events and publications that examine the strong and critical connections between healthy urban populations and environmental sustainability.
With proper attention paid to delivering population, health, and environmental services in our urban centers, it may be possible to leverage the benefits of higher urban densities—such as lower aid dispersion costs, communication access, infrastructure services, and fertile environments for ideas and productivity—to ensure urban sustainability for the future.
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