Promoting Creation of Healthy Cities

By: Nurul Firdaus Ahamed

In order to promote healthy lifestyles to the public, the healthy city concept was made popular by the “Healthy for All” movement launched by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 1978. A healthy city is one which is continually creating and improving the physical and social environment on top of expanding community resources which enable people to mutually support each other in performing all the functions of life and in developing to their maximum potential.

A healthy city is expected to comprise the following characteristics:

1. Planning for provision of basic infrastructure such as sewerage and drainage systems;
2. Proper sites for disposal and treatment for solid waste.
3. Proper identification of industrial sites;
4. Provision of adequate open space;
5. Provision of adequate land for suitable housing, including squatters improvements;
6. Planning for facilitating sufficient public transportation and reducing traffic congestion; and
7. Protection and improvement of natural beauty areas, natural habitats and cultural heritage.

Urban and rural communities in the world are facing unique challenges. Rapid urbanization and agricultural mechanization have changed the traditional physical and economical set up in the cities and villages. Migration of the rural population to urban centres has created a strong link between cities and villages. Healthy cities and villages concepts are holistic approaches aimed at improving the quality of the environment, thereby the humans, through a focus on the community development such as healthy housing, proper water supply and sanitation, appropriate handling and disposal of solid wastes, safe preparation and storage of food, control of disease vectors in the environment, prevention of risks from chemicals/pesticides and pollution in general, search for and choice of technologies appropriate for the community involved and generation of income for the poor sections of the community. A healthy city is a place where children are nurtured in the body and mind; where the environment invites learning and leisure; where people work and age with grace and dignity; where ecological balance is a source of pride.

A healthy city is one that is continuously creating and improving the physical and social environment and expanding community resources, which enable people to mutually support each other in performing all functions of life and in developing their maximum potential.

The link between the environment and public health can never be broken and history proves that attempts to do so has caused unnecessary problems to man’s well being. Until very recently, environmental protection, public health and human rights were viewed as distinct areas of public policy by governmental institutions and non-governmental organizations alike at both the national and international levels. With increasing globalization of trade and commerce in the past few decades, the environmental and public health impacts of rapid industrialization and urbanization in different regions of the world are now recognized as having major human rights implications by many policy makers. Human rights in the context of environment and sustainable development recognize that for human communities to survive, they must have an adequate and secure standard of living; they must be protected from harmful substances and unsafe products; they must learn to conserve and equitably share natural resources. Without these environmental and public health policies in place, human rights for respect, dignity, equality, non-discrimination and the ability for the public to participate in decisions that affect their lives cannot be achieved. As the infamous Wendell Berry has once said "You cannot affirm the power plant and condemn the smokestack, or affirm the smoke and condemn the cough", we should take responsibility for linking the built environment with public health.Thus, the role of the local authorities in improving public health must be seriously considered in order to help prevent and reduce the occurrence of diseases rather than to merely cure them.

Nurul Firdaus Ahamed is a 2nd year undergraduate student, under the Mansoura-Manchester Medical Programme, Mansoura University, Egypt.


koshary said...

My first thought in terms of developing a healthy city, is money.

Somehow, as we can observe, with strong economical background, we can build Vienna. Without it, we will have most of the African cities. Unorganized and definitely no safety, including violation of human rights.

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