Most people believe that their health is affected solely by their genetics and healthcare. However, your health can be influenced by so many things− one being the environment in which you live. Community design can have a substantial impact on your overall health.
What are healthy cities?
The term “healthy city” can lead you to believe that the city is filled with a bunch of healthy citizens, but it actually means that the city itself is facilitating a healthier standard of living for its residents. According to the World Health Organization (Europe), healthy cities can be defined as “a process, not an outcome.” A processing city is one that “continually creates and improves its physical and social environments, as well as the expansion of the community’s resources− therefore, enabling citizens to mutually support each other in performing all the functions of life, while also developing to their maximum potential.” Ultimately, this ensures that the community functions in a cooperative and beneficial way as the city grows and changes over time.
Making Healthier Cities
Not everyone is fortunate enough to live in a healthy city. And just one person alone cannot implement all the big changes necessary to make one, but you can be an advocate for them! How should you choose what to fight for? The Institute for Global Health, through research, was able to create a list of 5 Keys to Healthier Cities.
Clean air. Even before birth, the pollution in the air has affected our bodies. Heavy air pollution is one of the main causes of sicknesses such as lung cancer, stroke, respiratory diseases, etc. Therefore, improving the air quality is one of the first steps in creating a healthier living environment for all.
Peace and quiet. Unfortunately, air pollution is not the only form of pollution that affects your health. Noise pollution− with traffic noise as the main culprit− has also been proven to negatively impact overall well-being. Poor urban planning has resulted in constant noise from traffic, road work construction, and public transportation services. Noise needs to be eliminated as much as possible in order to improve community health by lowering stress and allowing for quality sleep.
More green. Natural spaces within urban areas can bring health benefits to the community. Through many studies, natural spaces have been proven to reduce stress, improve mood, and boost the mental health statuses of both adults and children. Instead of a few separated parks throughout the community, there should be green spaces that connect the city, such as public parks, medians, and nature trails.
Movement. Physical activity levels play a major role in your overall health. A good community advocate would seek to create an environment that supports being active as part of a daily routine. This could mean adding bike lanes, or sidewalks to promote outdoor physical activities. Increasing your time outdoors−while partaking in physical activities−may help with the air and noise pollution problems within the cities.
Temperature regulation. The temperature rises astronomically within urban areas. These temperatures peak due to the large buildings, lack of green spaces, and heat-absorbing paved surfaces. Urban areas that experience this increased temperature phenomenon, known as an “urban heat island,” create a higher chance of death from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. These temperatures should be taken into consideration when making future urban plans.
Health has been severely affected due to poor urban planning. There are many ways to avoid the urban health decrease by prioritizing these changes!
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