Rethinking Urban Health

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The concept of planetary boundaries was developed to capture the ecological limits within which humanity can live sustainably in the long term. Globally, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, four planetary boundaries have already been exceeded: land-use change (with urbanisation), climate change, biodiversity loss and nitrogen and phosphorus flows.

Cities place significant pressure on these planetary boundaries, with population growth pushing the boundaries of human settlements engendering ecological disruption and deforestation; air pollution due to industrial activities and the use of polluting fuels for transport, cooking and heating; and inadequate waste management driving pollution from domestic, agricultural and chemical sources.

These interlinked urbanisation challenges create significant hazards to people’s health and wellbeing: flooding increasing exposure to infectious diseases, heat islands increasing the risk of heart disease, air pollution and injury risk from busy roads, zoning regulations that reduce access to healthy foods, etc. They can also accelerate climate change, including deforestation, carbon pollution and biodiversity loss. The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the importance of urban environments for health. 

Health does not trickle down from good intentions. Instead, it needs to be purposely built-in.

How can we rethink cities to include health? What is the Polela model? And can it help to integrate climate action and health into the design of cities?

Read more here.

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