Today is World Health Day – 7 April 2010! With the campaign 1000 cities, 1000 lives, events have been organized worldwide by the World Health Organization during the week of April 7 – 11, 2010.
“The theme of urbanization and health was selected for World Health Day in recognition of the effect urbanization has on our collective health globally and for us all individually. Urban areas provide great opportunities for individuals and families to prosper and can provide a healthy living environment. However, urbanization can also bring many challenges including: overcrowding; air pollution; rising levels of risk factors like tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and the harmful use of alcohol; road traffic injuries; inadequate infrastructure, transport facilities, solid waste management systems; and insufficient access to health facilities
in slum areas.” ~ WHO
WHO is the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations system. Inaugurated on April 7, 1948, WHO provides leadership on global health matters, shapes the health research agenda, sets norms and standards, articulates evidence-based policy options, provides technical support to countries, and monitors and assesses health trends.
Organizers of World Health Day see April 7 as a call to action day and hope its observance “can trigger the long-term commitment to approach health from a social determinants point of view – addressing the factors and conditions that can determine our health outcomes – across multiple sectors engaging a wide array of partners including civil society and residents.”
The global goals of the 1000 cities, 1000 lives campaign are:
“¢1000 cities: to open up public spaces to health, whether it be activities in parks, town hall meetings, clean-up campaigns, or closing off portions of streets to motorized vehicles – over 1,300 cities joined the campaign!
“¢1000 lives: to collect 1000 stories of urban health champions who have taken action and had a significant impact on health in their cities – you can nominate someone.
Of course, we all know green infrastructure and eco-friendly architecture can improve the environment and support urban well-being. As reported by the BBC, a recent study in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health states evidence that living near a green space has health benefits, especially if you live less than a kilometer (0.62 miles) away.
According to the study, diseases that benefit most from green spaces are:
Coronary heart disease
Neck, shoulder, back, wrist and hand complaints
Depression and anxiety
Respiratory infections and asthma
Migraine and vertigo
Stomach bugs and urinary tract infections
Unexplained physical symptoms
In addition to connecting people back to nature, greenroofs and walls help filter and cleanse both airborne and stormwater toxins and pollutants. So doesn’t it make sense that increasing green spaces at all planes – ground, rooftop, and wall – and at all scales, from pocket parks to mega developments, can reduce many of our physical and emotional health problems?
You can sign up on Who’s social media website for 1000 cities, 1000 lives, where you can become a part of the movement by creating a profile and inviting your friends to join you. You’ll find an interactive map showing which cities have joined the movement, you can join a forum, and there’s even a WHO YouTube site for the 1000 cites, 1000 lives campaign where you can upload your own videos – see it here.
World Health Day 2010 posters available for download:
Promote urban planning for healthy behaviours and safety [pdf 513kb]
Improve urban living conditions [pdf 536kb]
Build inclusive cities that are accessible and age-friendly [pdf 456kb]
Ensure participatory urban governance [pdf 439kb]
Make urban areas resilient to emergencies and disasters [pdf 670kb]
World Health Day encompasses a much wider scope than just green buildings, but by investing now in greening the world’s cities we’ll all benefit – at environmental, economic, and health levels – for our future as well as our grand children’s and beyond!
~ Linda V.