Cities, Leaders Worldwide Mark World Health Day

Cities throughout the world are marking World Health Day today by promoting urban health, as part of the WHO’s “1,000 cities, 1,000 lives” campaign, CNN reports (Shaikh, 4/7).

“Poor health shreds communities, undermines economic opportunity, and holds back progress. And it denies children around the world the opportunity to live up to their full God-given potential. These are global challenges that demand a global response,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in a statement marking World Health Day, where she outlines several U.S. commitments aimed at improving the public health of populations living in urban environments. “On this World Health Day, let us renew our resolve to work together to meet the global health challenges of the 21st century” (4/7).

“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,” WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said in the organization’s press release. “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,” she added (4/7).

“Some of the most common health-related urban problems include chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes, communicable diseases such as tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS and even violence,” CNN continues (4/7).

“The wide range of health issues in cities and its determinants require coordinated policies and actions across multiple disciplines including environment, transport, education, parks and recreation, and urban planning,” WHO Assistant Director-General for Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health Ala Alwan said in the WHO press release. “We are at a critical turning point in history where we can make a difference,” he said.

The press release notes the WHO will continue to focus on urban health throughout the year, “culminating in a Global Forum on urbanization and health to take place in Kobe, Japan in November this year where municipal and national leaders will forge a declaration of action to address health in cities.” The WHO also plans to release a “comprehensive report on urban health inequities and how to address them” (4/7).

In related news, the Monitor/ examines the “dire health consequences” associated with overcrowding and poor sanitation in urban communities in Uganda as part one of a two-part series.

“Uganda is fast urbanising and if you don’t address urbanisation problems like health, water and infrastructure you will have a catastrophe,” explained Urban Tibamanya, the state minister for urban development. The article notes, “Intestinal worms, diarrhea and asthma topped the list of the most prevalent diseases in Kampala city between 2006 and 2009. Kampala City Council’s health division says these diseases jointly contribute to more than 80 percent of the disease burden in the city” (Lirri, 4/6).

The Daily Nation/ reports on how “[i]nadequate shelter, unemployment, crime, unavailability of clean water, inadequate drainage and sanitation are some of the urban challenges” facing populations in Kenya. The article looks at the difficulty city-dwelling Kenyans have is accessing emergency health services and the high rates of maternal mortality the country faces (4/6).

In other news, the Financial Times examines an effort underway in Kenya to provide populations living in low-income urban areas with access to clean toilets. According to the newspaper, the Kenya-based company Ecotact has placed 27 “Ikotoilets” in Kenya thus far, and plans to expand the program into Tanzania and Uganda. “This idea is just one of a range of solutions emerging as everyone from small businesses to city officials looks for ways to provide their citizens with access to clean water and adequate sanitation facilities,” the Financial Times writes.

“Doing so is becoming more difficult as the rapid expansion of urban populations poses monumental challenges for municipal authorities, particularly in developing countries where city slums are now home to more than 1bn people, according to UN-Habitat, the United Nations agency for human settlements,” the newspaper notes. 

The article examines efforts in other countries as well as the connection between the availability of clean drinking water and sanitation, several barriers to finding the funds to improve such services in the poor areas of the cities and several recent models for improvement (Murray, 4/6).

The KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report summarized news and information on global health policy from hundreds of sources, from May 2009 through December 2020. All summaries are archived and available via search.

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