World Health Day falls on 7th April, 2010. This day was instituted to remember and celebrate the founding of the World Health Organization, which came into existence in 1948. Year after year, The WHO takes up a burning global health issue as its goal for World Health Day.
Urbanization has been recognized as one of the most formidable challenges of the 21st century due to its effects on global health and that is why 'Urbanism and Healthy Living' forms thetheme of World Health Day 2010. The main focus of WHD 2010 is to incorporate health into urban public policy.
The campaign "1000 cities, 1000 lives" will begin during the World Health week 7-11 April 2010, and will be witness to clean-up campaigns, meetings and awareness campaigns on health issues. The campaign will initiate the need for more public spaces for better health. The health drive will also seek to emulate 1000 success stories of urban heroes who have championed the cause of health in their cities and made a remarkable difference to health in their setting.
One overriding question in the context is - why is life expectancy falling despite making significant strides in the medical field? The health statistics might hold the answer.
• One billion people worldwide do not have access to health care systems.
• Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) still remains the leading cause of death globally.
• HIV infects an estimated 4 million people worldwide every year.
• Malaria claims the lives of more than 1 million people annually.
• Dengue fever, cholera, and shigella also contribute to millions of deaths each year.
• Malnutrition and preventable diseases claim the life of close to 11 million children below the age of 5 annually.
• 8.8 million each year are diagnosed with tuberculosis (TB), 1.75 million TB deaths occur each year.
• Pneumococcal diseases result in 1.6 million deaths each year and more than half of the victims are children.
Challenges to Health in the Urban Setting
By 2015, 50% of the population of the developing world will be living in cities; this is likely to double within 30 years. By 2030, the cities will expand to three times their land area and this will bring added challenges to the health of the urban population. Therefore, it is amply clear that unless we address urban health today, the statistics might not show any improvement.
How can we improve urban health?
A way to ensure good urban health is to provide adequate health services to urban areas. In order to achieve this, urban planning must include health objectives, the progress of which must be evaluated periodically.
Clearly the goals to achieve 'Urbanism and Healthy living' will revolve around the following areas:
• Enabling Health Services and facilities in Urban Areas
• Introduction of health components into urban development projects
• Understanding and providing assistance to susceptible Urban Populations
• Improve water, sanitation & hygiene
• Improve environmental Health
• Address challenges to Urban Solid Waste Management
• Evaluate impact of climate change & global warming
• Improve Housing
• Control the spread of HIV/AIDS in Urban Areas
The urban planning process must enhance health outcomes for the underprivileged. Diarrheal and respiratory diseases pose one of the leading health challenges worldwide. This can be addressed appropriately through improved urban services like better sanitation, improved water and ventilation in households. As cities grow, more attention needs to be given to vector-related diseases like malaria and dengue fever.
Further, the proof of the health 'pudding' lies in establishing tools and resources to evaluate the efficacy of new health interventions vis a vis existing ones. This and only this can make a world of difference to the one billion people who do not have access to proper healthcare services, or the millions worldwide who do not survive HIV infection, malaria and a host of preventable illnesses.