Friday, March 24, 2023

How good urban planning can affect health

Rapid and unplanned urbanization of Latin America and the Caribbean has given rise to many challenges such as housing affordabilityAnd, Sustainability of transportation or safe access to water and sanitation services. Although many problems of poorly managed urbanization can affect people’s quality of life in many aspects, its impact on physical and mental health should be highlighted.

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Some examples may account for this: It is estimated that 21% of the urban population lives in informal settlements without access to adequate services and infrastructure, mainly drinking water, leaving millions of people with no access to safe and poses a high risk for waterborne diseases. Which especially affects the mortality rate of children under 5 years of age.

36% of the noise generated in cities comes from traffic generated by private cars and public transport. This phenomenon, to which city dwellers pay little attention, has a significant impact on the increase in blood pressure, for example, in children.

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Another example is that the absence of adequate infrastructure (squares, parks, bike paths) discourages the practice of physical activity. In this area, the number of people who do not engage in this type of activity has increased to 39% in recent years. This can lead to diseases such as breast cancer or diabetes and, moreover, has a different impact on women, as when there are insecurity factors, women and girls are less likely to be discouraged from physical activity than men.

The COVID-19 pandemic has reflected the relationship between health and urban development, As this allowed us to observe cities that implemented interventions that contributed to reducing contact and therefore reducing infection. Many of these initiatives have been a starting point for local governments to propose actions to promote a healthy life, where it is necessary to think about health infrastructure and in turn provide infrastructure, good services, food , adequate housing and environment to meet care needs.

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At CAF (Development Bank of Latin America) we have developed a guide for healthy cities that provides a conceptual framework, recommendations and practical examples for a healthy life. urban planning agenda in cities based on joint work between and health at the municipal level in accordance with internationally available best practices.

This guide presents the resources that local government can rely on to produce healthy urban environments, for example, regulating land use can ensure and protect the quality of natural resources; encourage physical activity; as well as promoting the proper use of infrastructure and making it economically viable; and facilitating access to fresh, quality food.

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Integrated management of urban solid waste is an important part of planning, strengthening and maintaining healthy cities. Secure infrastructure is also essential for accessibility and sustainable mobility. Local governments have a fundamental role in improving safety at critical points of road infrastructure, promoting the application of regulatory frameworks and ensuring compliance.

Focus on health in all policies becomes an opportunity so that the local governments of our region can reconsider Coordinated and inter-sectoral actions in health and urban development. This guide seeks to be a contribution to achieving this goal.

Angel Cardenas
Manager of CAF’s Urban Development, Water and Creative Economies
*Philosophy of Development is a section promoted by the Development Bank of Latin America (CAF) that analyzes the main development issues in the region.

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