WHO calls for innovative solution to make urban dwellers healthier

MANILA: The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Wednesday, April 7 called for an innovative solution in narrowing the health inequity caused by rapid increase in urban population, so as to create a healthier society in the Western Pacific Region, China's Xinhua news agency reports.

The Western Pacific Region has the highest number of people living in cities compared to other five WHO regions, whereby almost 50% or 800 million  people currently live in urban areas, which leads to health risks and challenges, as well as widened the gap of health inequities, Director of Manila-based WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific Shin Young-soo said on World Health Day.

World Health Day is celebrated every year on April 7, under the sponsorship of the WHO, themed "Be part of a global movement to make cities healthier".

Shin said the number of people living in urban areas is expected to increase in the coming years.

Citing WHO, Xinhua reported that the continued population growth in cities in the Western Pacific will cause serious consequences to human health, especially for the poor unless urgent steps are taken to tackle health risks for people who live in cities.

Citing Metro Manila as an example, Shin said: "Many people already live in urban slums or near-slums where disease is a serious threat.

"With the projected and continuous rise in the mega-city's population, the health risks will also rise if insufficient attention is paid to planning and implementation of healthy urban practices and infrastructure."

After the onset of Typhoon Ondoy, there was an increase in the cases of acute watery diarrhoea within Metro Manila and an outbreak of leptospirosis in three villages in Marikina City.

Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease caused by contact with water contaminated with urine from rats and other mammals.

Metro Manila, consisting of a dozen of cities, is the most densely populated region in the Philippines with over 15,500 people per sq km and the 15th largest city in the world.

Innovative and effective solutions that mitigate health risks of people living in cities must be found, acted upon and sustained over time, Shin said.

Many cities within and outside Metro Manila participated in World Health Day celebrations and organised events.

"It's time for everyone to do their part. Metro Manila has all the ingredients for positive change," Shin said.

"World Health Day may be held one day a year, but the health of the people is an every day matter." Shin concludes. -- Bernama

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