The article explores the profound influence of urban environments on our health, as elucidated by urban epidemiologist Tolullah Oni. It delves into the multifaceted aspects contributing to this impact, from air quality to access to green spaces and food environments. The piece also underlines the need for collective responsibility and proactive measures to create healthier cities.
Urban environments play a pivotal role in shaping our health and well-being, underscored by Tolullah Oni, a noted urban epidemiologist and the clinical director of research at the University of Cambridge. Oni’s investigation takes her to cities around the globe, studying the correlation between urban features and health outcomes.
“Not all urban areas are created equal, which can greatly impact a person’s health. Air quality, heat, and food are ways your environment can influence health.”
The Urban Influence On Health
According to Oni, cities can bolster and undermine an individual’s health. Factors such as diet, air quality, and access to safe and convenient transportation contribute to this impact. Moreover, the availability of green spaces and infrastructural elements that reduce exposure to extreme heat are also significant determinants of health in urban areas.
However, these beneficial factors are only evenly distributed across some city regions. Unfortunately, the most impoverished areas often bear the brunt of the negative influences. Addressing these inequalities becomes a pressing imperative as the world’s urban population is projected to double by 2050.
Shaping Healthier Cities
Creating healthier cities requires a multifaceted approach, starting with identifying risks and linking health and climate risks to urban developments. For instance, while new road infrastructure can facilitate mobility and economic activity, it also increases the risk of injuries and may displace cycling infrastructure.
One emphasizes the need for a participatory approach, enabling city dwellers to measure the risks and advocate for improvements in air quality, walkability, and food environments based on real-time data. This concept, termed “precision activism,” combines data-driven evidence with emotional resonance to bring about change.
Moreover, the responsibility for ensuring the health of cities primarily rests with the governments. They need to legislate and hold the private sector accountable for urban development. The private sector, too, must realize the business benefits of creating healthier cities as customers increasingly vote with their wallets.
Learning From Each Other
Cities worldwide can learn from each other in their quest to create healthier environments. Intersectoral governance mechanisms, skill, and far-sighted planning are vital lessons cities can share and adapt to. For instance, the shift from a sectoral to a places approach in response to the pandemic in Cape Town is a testament to the agility of governance in the face of changing realities.
Equally important is the vision for long-term planning. For instance, Asian and Middle Eastern cities show a solid commitment to creating climate-healthy and climate-resilient spaces, taking into account demographic changes.
In conclusion, the influence of urban environments on our health is profound, and it requires collective responsibility and proactive measures to create healthier cities. As urban dwellers, we all have a role to play in shaping the cities of our future.