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Urbanization, Health Tackled On World Health Day

Several media outlets examine the health risks associated with rapid urbanization around the world – the theme of this year’s World Health Day, to be marked on Wednesday.

“Swelling numbers of residents in the country’s cities are putting more and more people at risk of disease and traffic accidents, government officials and the World Health Organization (WHO) have said,” the Jakarta Post reports.

“As of 2009, 43 percent of Indonesia’s citizens were dwelling in urban areas, and that figure is predicted to increase to 60 percent by 2025,” Tjandra Yoga, the Health Ministry’s director general of disease control and environmental health in Indonesia, said Monday. “He said such a high population density would place a heavy burden on urban resources that were already overstretched today in many of the nation’s cities,” exacerbating poverty and compromising access to health services, the newspaper writes (4/6).

Citizen News Service/Thaindian News reports that the aims of this year’s World Health Day campaign – “1,000 cities – 1,000 lives” – are to encourage 1,000 cities to “open up public places to health, whether it is activities in the parks, meetings in town halls, cleaning-up campaigns, [or] closing off portions of streets to motorized vehicles” and to highlight the efforts of community role models “whose actions have impacted health in their cities” (Shukla, 4/6).

The idea behind the World Health Day campaign “is to exchange examples of how to improve urban living: something that requires wide-ranging and integrated policies that extend far beyond the provision of pure health services,” the Financial Times writes in a piece that examines several efforts to promote healthy living in urban regions.

The article details the success of a program that’s taken root in Mexico city,  which provides a government stipend to “mothers [who] come for check-ups before and after the birth of their children, receive nutritional supplements and are provided with health advice, including how to tackle obesity in a country with one of the highest rates in the world. The stipend – often used to buy books or food – continues as long as they ensure that their children are vaccinated and attend school regularly.”

The project, which is part of “Oportunidades network, a pioneering approach to health and social support that has expanded across Latin America over the past decade … reflects the innovation in healthcare delivery that is taking place in fast-growing cities around the world,” the Financial Times writes. “While access to health in rural areas has long been a challenge in developing countries, there is an intensifying focus on urban regions as their importance – and dangers – grows.”

The article highlights the efforts of groups such as Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), who have worked to ease the pressure on urban services through the establishment of clinics and expansion of access to low-cost therapies in urban areas.

“In Kibera, one of Africa’s largest slums with 1m people living on the outskirts of Nairobi in Kenya, MSF manages three clinics that tackle infectious diseases, including HIV. A decade ago, a shortage of medicines – and the lack of affordable access to those that existed – limited its ability to treat patients,” the newspaper writes. “Today, as cheaper drugs have combined with low-tech approaches to accelerate diagnosis, treatment and support, MSF’s work has expanded into the provision of chronic care, using social workers, counsellors and volunteers alongside medical staff. In three clinics in Cambodia, it is tackling diabetes and hypertension alongside HIV” (Jack, 4/6).