The recent series by the Lancet on urban slums highlights the importance of placing health at the heart of all interventions.
Over 800 million across the world live in slums; areas where expansion happens with not enough planning or infrastructure. This is despite the many specific challenges that come with slums, like poor housing, unsanitary living conditions, overcrowding, lack of basic health and social services.
These are serious, crippling challenges that need to be addressed and planned for as they are preventing millions from reaching their full potential.
There is a need to put health at the heart of urban planning, argues the Lancet series, an approach that organizations like SNEHA are consistently working towards. Urban public health is one of the most persistent yet disregarded issues facing the developing world. However, there has been no inclusive plan for dealing with India’s rapidly urbanizing population.
The primary focus remains rural health, and while this is important, there is a need for an urban health agenda given the many challenges in our cities.
Take Mumbai’s slum population. They are regarded as a homogenous, indistinguishable presence, although they are a vital component of the financial capital’s economic productivity. Many of them live day-to-day, rather fragile existence with poor access to amenities like drinking water.
The World Health Organization’s report – Health as the Pulse of the New Urban Agenda – also reinforces the need to put health at the heat of urban planning. Urbanization, it says, comes with opportunities for mobility and economic growth but has a negative impact on health and the environment. For urbanization to become sustainable, measures have to be put in place for disease prevention and health improvement.