Tuesday, November 10, 2009

World Health Day 2010: 1,000 Cities, 1,000 Lives

Turns out our Annual Meeting presenters aren’t only leaders in public health, but some are comedians as well. At a Tuesday afternoon session on megacities and health, presenter David Vlahov opened with a quote from a “14th century” mystic.

“Make me one with everything,” the mystic said….as he ordered a hot dog. (The audience cracked up, with the guy sitting behind me calling it a “zen moment.”)

But on to non-laughing matters. Vlahov, director of the Center for Urban Epidemiologic Studies at the New York Academy of Medicine, spoke about tackling health issues in megacities (generally defined as cities with more than 10 million residents) and growing cities. The topic seems especially pertinent, as 60 percent of the world’s population will be living in cities by 2030.

While there are some diseases that may flourish in cities, there’s no “urban genotype,” Vlahov said, which is why health workers and researchers must focus on improving the living conditions and other social determinants that affect health.

“We have to think about health beyond health services,” Vlahov said.

To learn more about this growing issue, visit the Megacities and Health Project Blog, which is also a space for people interested in a proposed book about megacities that would be published by APHA Press. You can also visit the International Society for Urban Health. Or you can start getting ready for World Health Day 2010, which will focus on urban health with a theme of “1,000 Cities, 1,000 Lives.”

— K.K.

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