As the world becomes increasingly urbanized, more than ever before, more and more people are now living in cities and these numbers appear to be on the rise. Cities bring both opportunities and challenges for the health of the people who live in them. Urban areas have resources and provide opportunities to help us understand how places affect health. Because of the population density of urban areas and other factors, it can be easier to apply what we learn about health to promote actions to protect the health of more people living in urban communities. A key way to understand and to improve urban health is through both local and global engagement.

Urban and Urbanization

Urbanization is one of the leading trends of our current and the past century. It has had positive and negative impacts on the health of people in our urban areas. It is expected that by 2050, over 68% of the world’s populations will live in cities. While urban is typically used in reference to cities and city life, when discussing urban health, urban is now often inclusive of areas such as sub-burbs and bedroom communities that surround cities. In this context, urban can be defined as the geographies where people’s homes, workplaces and gathering spaces are concentrated. While cities are still a key component in discussions about urban health, the definition of urban areas is becoming increasingly inclusive of areas surrounding cities and as a context for the areas diversity.

Urban Health

It is important to understand health in cities because urban populations are continuing to grow worldwide. And while access to quality health care is more abundant in urban areas compared to rural and remote areas, people in urban areas are increasingly subject to many different kinds of health hazards such as infectious diseases, toxic environmental exposures, environmental dangers- and more and more people in urban areas are reporting and seeking treatment for physical and mental health issues that may be linked to their environment.

Urban areas are different throughout the world but factors that often influence urban health include, government and public health policies, demographics and population characteristics, the natural and built environment, economic, social, and infrastructure development, health and emergency services management, food and nutrition security.  

Infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis (TB), pneumonia, hepatitis, and diarrhoeal diseases, are still prevalent in most of the world, especially in urban areas of less developed countries. Diseases that are hereditary but that can also be triggered by environmental and lifestyle factors, such as asthma, heart disease, cancer and diabetes, to name just a few, are becoming more and more prevalent in urban areas. Injuries that occur at work and on crowded streets and highways are common in urban areas. Unintentional and deliberate violence are both unfortunate parts of the urban landscape.

Our increasingly urbanized world is being met with many of the same and many new health issues. As more and more of the world’s population is living in urban areas, many urban people are looking into and participating in different kinds of healthcare to help them lead healthier lives in an urban environment