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Home > PUBLICATIONS > Articles

Health in cities: is a systems approach needed?

July 10, 2017

Levels of urbanization have grown exponentially worldwide. Today over half of the world’s population lives in cities, and it is expected that 60% will live in cities by 2030. Urbanization rates in some regions of the world are exceptionally high. For example Northern America is the most urbanized: 82% of the population lived in urban areas in 2010, and its population is projected to be almost 89% urban by 2050. About 79% of the population of Latin America lived in urban areas in 2010. By the middle of the 21st century Latin America’s population is projected to be 87% urban. As urban populations have grown, the health issues faced by city residents have expanded beyond the traditional urban health concerns linked to infectious diseases and toxic environmental exposures to also encompass chronic diseases linked to poor diets, sedentary life styles, and obesity, as well as physical and mental health issues linked to violence, poverty, and unemployment. In addition, because city residents are often very diverse in race/ethnicity and socioeconomic circumstances, cities typically have large inequalities in health across social groups that are often manifested spatially as pronounced differences in health across neighborhoods. These inequalities are in turn reinforced by important differences across neighborhoods in physical and social environments important to health.

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