World Health Day

About this year's theme: What is it all about?

World Health Day 2010: background

Urbanization: a challenge for public health

1000 cities 1000 lives logo

Virtually all population growth over the next 30 years will be in urban areas, signaling that urbanization is here to stay. It is associated with many health challenges related to water, environment, violence and injury, noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) and their risk factors like tobacco use, unhealthy diets, physical inactivity, harmful use of alcohol as well as the risks associated with disease outbreaks. Urbanization is a challenge for several reasons.

  • The urban poor suffer disproportionately from a wide range of diseases and other health problems, and include an increased risk for violence, chronic disease, and for some communicable diseases such as tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.
  • The major drivers, or social determinants, of health in urban settings are beyond the health sector, including physical infrastructure, access to social and health services, local governance, and the distribution of income and educational opportunities.

Solutions exist to tackle the root causes of urban health challenges

Urban planning can promote healthy behaviours and safety through investment in active transport, designing areas to promote physical activity and passing regulatory controls on tobacco and food safety. Improving urban living conditions in the areas of housing, water and sanitation will go a long way to mitigating health risks. Building inclusive cities that are accessible and age-friendly will benefit all urban residents.

Such actions do not necessarily require additional funding, but commitment to redirect resources to priority interventions, thereby achieving greater efficiency.