The Evolving Challenge of Urban Health

by Shama Karkal and Bhumika Nanda

Urban economies are rapidly changing: 52% of the world is now urbanized (compared to 39% three decades ago), and India’s urban population is projected to reach additional 300 million more by 2050 (World Cities Report-2016). Urban India contributed 63% of India’s GDP in 2014 and is expected to contribute three-fourths of the GDP by 2020. At around the same time, the number of India’s urban poor is expected to hit 200 million (National Population Policy 2000).

All of these changes impact the health of urban residents in complex ways: migration, climate change, transitioning disease burden, unhealthy built environments and inadequate urban systems to cope with this rapid growth all have a role to play. At the same time, the goal of an emerging economy should be to create truly enabling environments for occupants — according to Hancock and Duhl, “A healthy city is one that is continually creating and improving those physical and social environments and expanding those community resources which enable people to mutually support each other in performing the functions of life and in developing to their maximum potential.” In other words, a healthy city is one which allows its population to flourish, and the health sector can’t ensure that on its own.

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