World Health Day To Focus On Making Cities Healthier

As part of this year’s World Health Day, the WHO on Wednesday will launch a program to encourage cities to become more healthy to help mitigate the health risks associated with rapid urbanization, Agence France Presse/ Global Nation reports. “The world’s urban population passed 3 billion in 2007, exceeding the rural population for the first time, according to the United Nations. By 2030, 60 percent of the world’s growing population is expected to live in cities,” the news service writes. The global campaign hopes to attract “1,000 cities to ‘open up public spaces to health,’ by closing off portions of streets to traffic, to encourage exercise in parks and clean-up campaigns,” the news service writes.

The article includes comments by WHO official Lori Sloate, who described the health risks associated with living in an urban environment as a “triple threat” due to high rates of infectious diseases, chronic disease and an increased concentration of violence and crime in cities. Poverty can also exacerbate the health risks in urban environments, the news service notes.

“The idea [of the World Health Day campaign] was to mobilize the efforts of cities and to focus on the importance of municipal leadership in addressing health problems,” Sloate said (4/5).

In statements released ahead of World Health Day, WHO official Samlee Pliangbangchang appealed for cities to take swift action to promote health, Xinhua reports. “According to Samlee, the WHO has estimated that every one U.S. dollar spent on sanitation gives a return of 9.1 dollars in terms of prevention and treatment of illness. He also said that improved transportation, infrastructure and greener technologies enhance urban quality of life, including fewer respiratory ailments and accidents and better health for all” (4/5).