Work together for happier and healthier cities: WHO - BreatheLife2030
Network Updates / Geneva, Switzerland / 2018-03-21

Work together for happier and healthier cities: WHO:

Cities can be happier and healthier by design, policy and citizen action, says WHO's Maria Neira

Geneva, Switzerland
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“We all need to work together to make our cities healthier – and happier – places to live.”
Dr Maria Neira, World Health Organization

With the majority of the world’s people now living in cities, the race to design happy, healthy cities has never been more heated.

This International Day of Happiness, the World Health Organization’s Director for the Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health, Dr Maria Neira, writes on the importance of urban health to happiness and how designing cities for good air quality is crucial for success on this front.

One of the best overall “indicators” of a healthy or unhealthy city is air quality, she writes, “because air pollution levels are typically low in well-planned cities with good transport systems, walkable streets and ample green spaces to filter the air.

When cities are built using good planning principles, they can also be communities that foster health and wellbeing. Think of cities or neighborhoods you have particularly enjoyed living in or visiting – and how such places looked, felt or even ‘smelt’.”

Designing and regulating cities for good air quality, and working together with residents to craft their healthy city have benefits that go far beyond the simple ability to, well, breathe easy.

“Since most sources of outdoor air pollution are beyond the control of individuals, we must call on our city mayors and other local leaders to push for change and commit to tackling air pollution head on,” Dr Neira writes.

“Local and national governments need to introduce policies and make investments that support cleaner transport, energy-efficient housing, power generation, industry and better municipal waste management, but change can also be led at community and individual levels.”

“But we can also lead change at community and individual level. This can include commitments to cycle or take public transport to work, when safe routes are available; to recycle waste or compost; or conserve water and energy at home and in the office. Strategies such as “pedibus” initiatives can encourage children to walk to school safely, and the creation of urban gardens can provide both healthy foods and venues for social interaction and physical activity.

Many of these measures to improve environmental health also help people to be more physically active and eat a healthier diet, so reducing obesity and diseases like diabetes and heart disease.”

“Health and wellbeing MUST be the number one priority in urban planning,” Dr Neira said.

By 2050, two-thirds of the world’s population will be urbanites.

“People live in cities to be close to employment and educational opportunities and services, and cities can be wonderful places for social interaction and access to cultural activities,” Dr Neira writes.

“We all need to work together to make our cities healthier – and happier – places to live.”

Read her full blog post here:

Health Must Be Number One Priority for Urban Planners

Watch how air pollutants attack and affect your health:

Originally published by NewCities, an international nonprofit organization dedicated to making cities more inclusive, connected, healthy and vibrant