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Cities of Today, Cities of Tomorrow

Unit 5: What is Wrong with Cities?
Objectives Summary Text Activities

Over the past 30 years life expectancies have increased in all regions of the world, including the developing world, with those in East Asia and the Caribbean nearing the levels of the developed regions. This indicates an overall improvement of world health, with cities faring better. But it does not paint a complete picture of urban health.

Today, in both developed and developing countries the urban poor have the highest health risks. Lower income and poor living conditions are usually associated with poorer health status and increased mortality. High population densities and low resistance levels allow infectious diseases to move rapidly among large numbers of people. New infectious diseases, such as HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, have also emerged in urban settings.

Water pollution and poor sanitation are major causes of urban illnesses, exacerbated in poor and overcrowded housing in low-income neighborhoods. Such areas become breeding grounds for a number of ordinarily preventable diseases. Every year, 4 million urban residents worldwide die from waterborne diseases alone. In Manila, the Phillipines, one researcher found 35 diseases that were caused by garbage and filth (filth-borne diseases), five of which were among the top five killer illnesses in the country.

Improving sanitation will obviously improve health and the level of the population's productivity. Often the following reasons are given for not improving sanitation: governments cite high costs and richer residents claim that money should be spent on the productive sectors of the city. But these are false reasons. It has been shown time and again that the damage inflicted by poor housing and sanitation conditions is greater than the cost of improvements.



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