Urbanization: one of the greatest health challenges in the 21st century

Over 3 billion people live in cities. In 2007, the worlds population living in cities surpassed 50% for the first time in history, and this proportion is growing. By 2030, six out of every 10 people will be city dwellers, rising to seven out of every 10 people by 2050. Urbanization is here to stay. It is an irreversible trend that is now part of the world in which we live. In many cases, especially in the developing world, the speed of urbanization has outpaced the ability of governments to build essential infrastructure. Unplanned urbanization can intensify an existing humanitarian crisis and has consequences for the health security and safety of all citizens in cities.

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.

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