The World Health Organisation (WHO) is celebrating World Health Day today with activities around the world, and the theme “urbanisation and health” which aims to improve urban equity gaps, the leading cause for many health problem’s in the world’s poor according to the WHO.
Past themes have been “working together for health” in 2006 which focused on the health workforce crisis; “international health society” in 2007, aiming to improve the first line of defence against public health emergencies; “protecting health from climate change” in 2008, which looked at the effects of climate change on vulnerable populations; and “save lives, make hospitals safer in emergencies” in 2009.
This year’s campaign 1000 cities, 1000 lives is bringing attention to the issues of urban health. The WHO believes “urbanization is one of the major threats to health in the twenty-first century.”
Although the WHO recognises urban environments can provide “great opportunities for individuals and families to prosper,” they can also harm our health in many ways, if the infrastructure and lifestyle in these urban sectors aren’t improved.
Some of the challenges the WHO cites as being problematic in urban areas are “overcrowding; air pollution; rising levels of risk factors like tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and the harmful use of alcohol; road traffic injuries; inadequate infrastructure, transport facilities, solid waste management systems; and insufficient access to health facilities in slum areas.”
According to the WHO, more than half of the world’s population now lives in urban areas, something that has never before happened in our history. They note that about 34% of the total population of the WHO’s South-East Asia Region is urban.
This year’s World Health Day aims to promote finding solutions to the roots of urban health issues and to “build partnerships with multiple sectors of society to make cities healthier.”
But improving urban sectors does not just benefit health, but is an economically sound proposal. The WHO estimates that “every $1 spent on sanitation gives a return of US$ 9.10 in terms of prevention and treatment of illnesses. Improved transportation, infrastructure and greener technologies enhance urban quality of life, including fewer respiratory ailments and accidents and better health for all.”
WHO Representative to the Maldives Dr Jorge Mario Luna says the solution to many of the health issues exacerbated by overcrowding, pollution, inactivity and unhealthy diets, violence and injury is proper urban planning.
“Proper 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.”
He added that “such actions do not necessarily require additional funding, but commitment to redirect resources to priority interventions, thereby achieving greater efficiency.”
Malé Health Fair
With this in mind, this year’s campaign is promoting ‘greener’ and healthier lifestyle options, which will be showcased in Malé’s Health Fair, to be held on Saturday 10 April from 4:00-6:30 pm, and then from 8:00-10:30 pm in different locations around the city.
There will be activities held in Ameenee Park, Children’s Park, the Social Center, and other locations around Malé, Hulhumalé and Vilingili.
Some of the activities include free sporting events like dodge-ball and gymnastics; public awareness demonstrations on first aid and sanitation; food preparation counselling for kids; quizzes and puzzles; medical check-ups at ADK hospital; and distribution of information on living a healthier life.
On Friday 9 April there will be a ‘bicycle round’ where senior government officials and other volunteers will join in bicycle round of Malé.
The ‘round’ will start at the Artificial Beach at 4:00 pm and will follow a westerly route, for about half an hour, along Boduthakurufaan Magu, ending at Licence Sarahahdhu near IGMH.