Urban Health in the 21st Century

About 55% of the world’s population – roughly 4 billion people – live in urban areas. Almost one-quarter of these people – about 880 million people – live in urban slums or informal settlements, including about 300 million children. While the pace of urbanization and the growth of slums has slowed in some regions of the world like Latin America, both continue to grow rapidly in Sub Saharan Africa and South East Asia. Urbanization is an important driver of prosperity, but also of inequality.

Poor and marginalized urban dwellers, especially recent arrivals in cities, have greater exposure to unhealthy and unsafe environments; limited access to green spaces or options for walking and recreation; limited connectivity to social networks, health services, social support networks and the local economy; inadequate and inequitable access to safe and affordable water, sanitation and hygiene; and poor access to waste management services. Urbanization increases the risk of infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, pneumonia, dengue fever, and Zika, as well as many non- communicable threats to health, including injuries from accidents, risk of violent crime, exposure to carcinogens, and obesity- related diseases. Air pollution is a large and growing threat to health, causing almost 1 in 10 deaths of children under five worldwide.

USC IIGH has already contributed significantly to global understanding of health concerns raised by urban environments including barriers and challenges in delivering health interventions to the most marginalized, such as the health and rights issues for homeless and other marginalized populations working with the city of Los Angeles, and others domestically and internationally.

The Institute is committed to building on these foundations to make significant additional contributions to the understanding of urbanization and global health over the next five years, recognizing the increasing importance of local government to address health inequalities. Engaging colleagues across USC, in particular the urban planning capacity in the USC Price School of Public Policy and the School of Architecture, the work of the Center for Sustainability Solutions, and the geospatial expertise of the Spatial Sciences Institute will be key to this work.

Working locally and globally, collaborating across USC and with relevant external partners, the Institute will continue to work with the City of Los Angeles, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and other external partners on issues including increasing access to green spaces; identifying and evaluating health and social system approaches to ensure effective health and social coverage; addressing child health, prenatal and antenatal care and delivery, and chronic conditions exacerbated by urban life on the poorest and most vulnerable.

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