Genetics and lifestyle are not the only things that contribute to your overall health! When thinking about the factors that affect your health, the design of your city is not one that many think of. However, the urban plan of where you live can have a significant impact on your personal well-being.
What are healthy cities?
What makes a healthy city? Surprisingly, its inhabitants aren’t the standardized measure of city health. Instead, city health is measured by the way that infrastructure encourages a high standard of living for its citizens. As defined by the World Health Organization (Europe), healthy cities are “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.” Basically, a healthy city allows a community to coexist peacefully while also growing, changing, and becoming better suited to the community’s specific needs.
Creating Healthier Cities
After learning the definition of a healthy city, you may find that you aren’t living in one. What changes could you advocate for in order to create one? The Institute for Global Health, through their own research, was able to compile a list of 5 Keys to Healthier Cities.
Clean air. Air pollution has contaminated the air we’ve breathed for generations– in fact, we’ve likely never taken a completely clean breath of air. Some of the most dangerous conditions− lung cancer, stroke, respiratory disease, etc.− can be attributed to terrible air quality. The first step in creating healthier cities is to improve the air quality in heavily populated areas.
Peace and quiet. Noise pollution mostly consists of traffic noise, community construction, and motorized vehicle transportation. This noise has proven to have a negative impact on health by impacting effective hearing, restful sleep, and just so happens to correlate with increases in air pollution. Constant noise is an often-overlooked side effect of poor urban planning that needs to be fixed in order to improve the health of the community.
More wilderness. Many studies share the positive health effects that natural, lush, green spaces can have on children and adults living within urban areas. These spaces can help reduce stress, promote better mental health, and increase the amount of outdoor activity in the community.
Movement. Partaking in any sort of regular physical activity plays a big part in overall health. A well-designed city must prioritize creating an environment that supports a physically active citizenry, such as implementing more bike lanes and widening sidewalks. In doing so, this will not only increase physical activity levels but may help decrease the amount of air and noise pollution.
Temperature control. Many urban areas experience temperatures much higher than their surroundings. This is mainly due to cities having tall buildings, few green spaces, and heat-absorbing pavement and building materials. This heat spike is considered an “urban heat island” that may increase the chances of death from cardiovascular and respiratory disease complications. Heat also plays a role in rapidly eroding and weakening vital structures such as apartment buildings, hospitals, and roadways. These warmer temperatures should be taken into consideration during a city’s blueprint phase.
Public health has been severely affected due to poor urban planning. There are many ways to avoid the urban wellness decrease by prioritizing these changes in order to improve the quality of life within the community.
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