Research & Innovation 2015-16 - Page 62



Thought leader
Living in the city:
how environment affects health
For the first time, more than half of the world’s population lives in urban
settings. Many African countries are experiencing rapid, unplanned
urbanisation, resulting in a significant proportion of urban dwellers living in
informal settlements. A simplistic notion of urbanisation envisages people
moving into denser areas with better access to healthcare and improved
socioeconomic determinants of health, such as education and employment
opportunities. However, the urban poor, who mostly live in such environments,
are often exposed to worse conditions than in rural areas. This is exacerbated
by the relative deprivation and spatial and environmental discrimination that
accompany vulnerability. To improve inhabitants’ and communities’ health and
well-being in a changing urban environment, it is important to understand the
key factors and determinants that contribute to a healthy city, writes Tolu Oni.
The health and well-being of people living in cities
and towns is intricately linked to the natural, built
and institutional elements of the urban environment.
In a changing urban environment, we need to
consider all dimensions of urbanisation and urban
living, as well as key social determinants of health.
These include access to housing, health services,
transport, food security, potable water, physical and
environmental safety, social welfare, community
resilience and psychosocial support structures.
57 UCT RESEARCH & INNOVATION 2015–16
Urban health and urban health equity
Physical, mental and social health outcomes are
linked, and can influence the very determinants of
health through positive or negative feedback. For
example, poor housing conditions are associated with
an increased risk of infectious and chronic respiratory
conditions. Urban health and urban health equity have
been globally recognised as crucial issues for the
global south. Furthermore, we need to understand

globally recognised





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