produced by IntraHealth International

World Health Day 2010: Urbanization and Health

Posted on April 6, 2010 By The Editorial Team

This year’s World Health Day theme—Urbanization and Health—reflects the rising number of people living in cities around the world. In 2007, the world’s urban population surpassed 50% for the first time in history, and this proportion is growing—by 2050, it’s estimated to exceed 70%.

Low- and middle-income countries are the most affected by demographic changes, bearing 80% of the world’s burden of disease and the highest attrition rates of doctors and nurses to other parts of the world. Meanwhile, between 1995 and 2005 alone, the urban population of developing countries grew by an average of 1.2 million people per week, or around 165,000 people every day. Inarguably, these trends influence the accessibility, quality, and cost of long-term health care in urban and rural communities, alike.

For 30 years, IntraHealth has balanced its work in extending services to hard-to-reach and often underserved rural populations with increasing attention to urban health issues and disparities. But every city is different, with likely as many variables for change—housing infrastructure, physical climate, political stability, availability of jobs—as there are health disparities. Recognizing this, we’re seizing World Health Day, April 7, 2010, to ask how can we, collectively bring new thinking to those challenges that urbanization is bringing to global health?


Dear Sir or Madam,I am a...
Posted by Payman Doosti (not verified) on April 22, 2010
Dear Sir or Madam,I am a PhD student of “Health and Social Welfare” at the faculty of Sociology, Yerevan State University. The topic of my thesis is “Developing a Model of Healthy City in Kermanshah, Iran”. As this is an “Urban Health” issue and WHO is focusing on “Urbanization and Health” this year, I want to know whether I can receive any kind of support by International organizations such as WHO, United Nations, World Bank, etc.All the bestPayman Doosti

I wonder if the term \&qu...
Posted by Heather Valli (not verified) on April 6, 2010
I wonder if the term \"Urbanization and Health\" is too broad a topic to focus on effectively. While cities have certain things in common--large numbers of people and their basic needs concentrated in a given area--they vary widely in other respects. Are Geneva\'s urban health concerns similar to those in Quito? Bamako? Beijing? Humans have found many wonderful ways to live closely together, and have found a wide variety of health challenges along the way. \"Urban Health\" seems like an awfully large umbrella to cover them all.

We have been thinking abo...
Posted by Lindsey Graham (not verified) on April 6, 2010
We have been thinking about how health workers are recruited, trained and retained in both rural and urban settings. Do health workers in urban settings have different needs? We often talk of providing incentives to health workers to retain them in hard-to-reach rural areas… How can we ensure that urban health care needs are met, as well?

Disparities in access bet...
Posted by Laura Hoemeke (not verified) on April 6, 2010
Disparities in access between rural and urban populations need to be seen in a broader context, especially the seemingly growing divide between access among the richest and the poorest in every society. Yes, urbanization brings its own challenges. But let’s make sure that we look at all health challenges in the broader context of poverty—and make sure that improving urban health means reaching the most underserved urban communities. In some cases, this includes people who live across the street or down the hill from hospitals offering state-of-the-art care!

In urban environments you...
Posted by Corinne Farrell (not verified) on April 7, 2010
In urban environments you have the stark juxtaposition of "the haves" and "have nots." Proximity to health care, schools and economic opportunities does not guarantee access to them. Heather (#1) is right that what works in one city may not work in another. Mexico’s Oportunidades model was adapted in a pilot program in NYC to encourage those in poverty to send their children to school and health appointments. The NYC program was not effective and is being dropped. But, at least they tried. While there is no way to lump all cities together, cities can certainly learn from each other. Urban health means focusing on the health and social determinents that cities share, like increased pollution, crime and high density and more heterogeneous populations.

For some inspiration toda...
Posted by Sarah Dwyer (not verified) on April 7, 2010
For some inspiration today, I\'m watching short videos on WHO\'s World Health Day channel about individuals taking action in their cities. Check them out at

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