World Health Day Celebrated

7 April 2010: The 2010 edition of World Health Day was celebrated on 7 April around the theme "Urbanization: a challenge for public health." To mark the Day, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Commonwealth Secretariat released a couple of publications that underline linkages between urban health and climate change.

According to the WHO background paper titled “Why urban health matters,”urban areas concentrate both emitters of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and people at risk from climate change impacts such as heat waves, water scarcity, increasing levels of air pollution or rising sea levels. Key vulnerability factors include coastal location and exposure to the urban heat-island effect, whereby urban temperatures may be 5–11°C higher than in surrounding rural areas due to the greater heat absorption of dense urban built spaces and lowered capacity for evaporative cooling.

The Commonwealth Secretariat issued a discussion paper titled “The state of the cities: why, and how, the Commonwealth must address the challenge of sustainable urbanization.” This paper stresses that climate change and slum-based poverty are exacerbated by today's urban growth. It argues that Commonwealth professions and civil society organizations need to work more closely to explore ways in which urban forces impact on health, environment, forests and climate change. The paper also recommends that urban development decisions address climate change.

In a message to mark the Day, Kamalesh Sharma, Commonwealth Secretary-General, underlined that urban health is threatened by climate change and extreme weather conditions, which also bring about severe strains on health service delivery. [WHO Background Paper] [World Health Day Website] [Commonwealth Secretary-General's Message] [Commonwealth Secretariat Discussion Paper]