We, the mayors, city and health leaders of six major cities, feel compelled to speak out about an urban crisis the world is only just starting to wake up to.
Half the world’s population now live in cities. As urban populations explode, lifestyles are increasing people’s vulnerability to non-communicable diseases (NCDs)–a phenomenon which the World Health Organisation recently called the “new urban epidemic”. Take diabetes: 415 million people live with diabetes worldwide; two-thirds of them live in cities, a figure projected to rise to three-quarters by 2040.
Current action does not reflect the scale of the crisis. First-hand experience has shown we need to look afresh at what’s driving the epidemic. If we don’t find new approaches, the threat of NCDs will overwhelm the health systems we depend on, compromise the quality of life we enjoy and seriously constrain the future economic prosperity that cities have the power to drive.
We call on national leaders, mayors and citizens worldwide to make health central to the ‘New Urban Agenda’. In doing so, we must find new ways to design, build and run cities that help people live healthy lives. To achieve this, we need:
1. Greater focus on prevention of NCDs. We must recognise the risks presented by urban lifestyles and build health systems that not only deliver treatment but seek to prevent NCDs more effectively.
2. Urban policies that prioritise health. Health must be built into every aspect of urban strategy where there are mutual benefits–from transport, housing and food to tackling climate change and inequalities.
3. New models for collaboration. We must form new partnerships involving public and private organisations–bringing together national and city administrations, urban planners, health departments, businesses and communities.
We need to get this right. If not, the health of billions of urban citizens is at stake.
Dr José Armando Ahued Ortega, Minister of Health, Government of Mexico City
Sylvester Turner, Mayor, City of Houston
Frank Jensen, Mayor, City of Copenhagen
Gregor Robertson, Mayor, City of Vancouver
Roberto Pella, President, Confederation of Towns and Municipalities of the European Union and Vice President of ANCI Italian Municipalities Association
Professor Jia Weiping, President of Chinese Diabetes Society, Director of Shanghai No.6 People’s Hospital and Director of Shanghai Diabetes Institute
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