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, non-communicable 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 therefore a major challenge faced by the world today.
With this as the backdrop, the WHO themed the World Health today around its campaign “1000 cities, 1000 lives”, events which is being organized worldwide during the week of 7 – 11 April 2010.
The global goals of the campaign are:
- 1000 cities: to open up public spaces to health, whether it be activities in parks, town hall meetings, clean-up campaigns, or closing off portions of streets to motorized vehicles
- 1000 lives: to collect 1000 stories of urban health champions who have taken action and had a significant impact on health in their cities
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. However, all this requires great determination from the side of the Governments and decision makers.
World Health Day in Delhi
In a report titled ‘The urban environment and health: Delhi stands up to the challenge”, the WHO congratulated the city of Delhi today, for taking the right step of running commercial vehicles on Compressed Natural Gas (CNG). This, the report suggests, has brought down the urban pollution load considerably.
Later in the day, an exhibition cum panel discussion on “Urbanization and Health – challenges and solutions” was organized at AIIMS, New Delhi to mark the occasion. The exhibition saw participation from the Health Ministry, AYUSH, WHO, Public Health Foundation of India and NGOs Manas Foundation and Health Fitness Trust. The panel discussion focused on the areas concerned with urbanization and health.
Speaking on the challenges of urbanization and health, the Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare Shri Ghulam Nabi Azad said that while the country is still dealing with communicable diseases, burden of non communicable diseases (NCDs) is assuming menacing proportion. He emphasized the need to focus on chewing tobacco and gutka in the fight against tobacco.
Shri Azad further stated that while attention is centered on cigarettes, those chewing tobacco products are going scot free. “India also shares the highest burden of oral cancer in the world due to consumption of chewing tobacco” he conluded.