•7 out of 10 people globally will be living in cities and other urban settings by 2050.
•While urbanization, overall, is expected to reduce malaria transmission, unplanned urbanization will likely result in a malaria disease burden that is disproportionately high among the urban poor.
As the world commemorates World Cities Day on 31st October 2022, WHO and the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) are jointly organizing a webinar to launch the new "Global framework for the response to malaria in urban areas".
The framework provides guidance to city governments, health programmers, urban planners and communities as they respond to the challenges of rapid urbanization in a targeted way.
Data from the World Health Organisation suggests that by 2050, nearly 7 out of 10 people globally will be living in cities and other urban settings.
Although many will benefit from their urban status, rapid and unplanned urbanization can have negative social and environmental health impacts, particularly on the poorest and most vulnerable.
While urbanization is expected to reduce malaria transmission, it will likely result in a malaria disease burden that is disproportionately high among the urban poor if unplanned.
According to experts, mosquito species that adapt easily to urban environments, such as Anopheles stephensi, can also increase the risk of malaria in the urban setting.
WHO says cities are uniquely positioned to understand local needs and convene policies that respond rapidly to changing conditions to safeguard the health of its people.
“These changes require strong city leadership to implement multi-sectoral, health-relevant policies and public services. The response to malaria and other vector-borne diseases must be integrated into such policies and processes,” they said in a statement.
“By offering specific guidance to local officials, this new Framework can help ensure that malaria control forms an integral part of the broader urban planning, policy-making and budgeting processes,” explains Dr Abdisalan Noor, Head of the Strategic Information for Response Unit in the WHO Global Malaria Programme.
“For each urban context, the strategic use of data can inform effective, tailored responses and help build resilience against the threat of malaria and other vector-borne diseases.”
On this day, it also launched the ‘Urban Health Research Agenda’, a comprehensive strategy to help cities build better evidence around what works to address urban health challenges.
The agenda calls for building evidence on the environmental, economic and social impacts of urban health policies so that they can be addressed through a coordinated approach that involves the different sectors working together to improve the health of their residents.
“We desperately need to get ahead of the challenges that are impacting the health and well-being of people living in cities,” notes Dr Etienne Krug, Director of the Department of Social Determinants of Health at WHO.
“Strong urban policies must prioritize health, to ensure resilient and vibrant communities for people to live, work, go to school and play, all while protecting those who are most vulnerable.”
Urban health is a growing priority for WHO, which addresses the issue in multiple cross-cutting ways, such as better air quality, a safe water supply and improved sanitation; healthy urban planning; smoke-free environments; road safety; prevention of violence and injuries; healthy food systems and diets; environmental management of vector-borne diseases; and preparedness for health and humanitarian emergencies.
Addressing the needs of specific population groups, such as children and older people and migrants, is also a priority. The interlinked nature of urban health challenges means that action in one sector can have benefits for many others.
In celebration of World Cities day; different cities host the event each year.
Shanghai, China, is hosting the event this year.
Theme; “Better City, Better Life” has been the general theme of World Cities Day since its inception, but each year, a sub-theme is also announced.
The sub-theme; is “Act Local to Go Global.” To reach the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 11 of the United Nations by 2030, local action is vital.
The mission; “Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”.
Local and regional governments need to be empowered to develop greener and more equitable cities.