What Would a Healthy City Look Like
A healthy city would be filled with clean air and a safe and high quality environment, with all basic needs such as water, food, and shelter for all residents. There would be ample education supplied for everyone, and in turn diverse employment opportunities so that more residents will have jobs. A healthy city would have plenty of recreational areas for its residents, and a public transportation system that would help residents travel safely between home and work. There would also be a superior level of appropriate public health care services and accessibility. (Hilgenkamp 364). Like a truly healthy human body, a truly healthy community is one in which all systems function as they should, and work together to make the community function well.
Obstacles to Becoming a Healthy City
One of the biggest challenges in creating a healthy community coalition is to sustain the members’ involvement in the process. This challenge can be overcome in part by agreeing as early as possible on a vision for the community. Although a Healthy Cities/Healthy Communities initiative should not be top-down, it needs the commitment and backing of those with the power to make things happen. Officials can use the media to publicize the effort, pass laws and regulations (and enforce those already existing) that reinforce it, and throw the weight and resources of government behind it. Without official support, a community-wide effort is more likely to fail.
Financial Issues in Creating a Health City
The ultimate goal here is the development of a truly healthy community, which translates to improving the quality of life for everyone in the community. This is not done without cost. Improving existing and building new parks can be very costly. Another high cost to a healthy community is the medical treatment of the sick without insurance. This can be a high tax burden on the citizens, which can depreciate the health value of the community. Revamping a city’s infrastructure, such as wastewater treatment and water supply can be another costly expenditure in becoming a clean city.
Benefits of a Healthy City
Creating and sustaining a good healthy city has many benefits. A solid healty community provides: •Shelter adequate to the climate, to the needs of the occupants, and to withstand extremes of weather. •Education for children (and often adults as well, as in the case of adult literacy) that is free, adequate to equip them for a productive and comfortable life in their society. •Not just food, but enough of it, and of adequate nutritional value, to assure continued health and vigor for adults, and proper development for children. •A stable ecosystem. Clean air, clean water, and protection of the natural environment. •Sustainable resources that include water, farmland, minerals, industrial resources, power sources (sun, wind, water, biomass), plants, animals. •Employment that provides an income adequate for a reasonable quality of life, and public support for those who are unable to work or find jobs.
What is Environmental Health
In order to define and completely understand environmental health, we should first break each of its components down and define them. The World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” The environment is defined as “All conditions, circumstances, and influences surrounding and affecting the development or existence of people or other living things.” (Hilgenkamp 1) Environmental health in turn is essentially how we can prevent disease and create a health-supportive environment along with its related systems. Environmental health is the understanding of how we can sustain life on the planet for all future generations to come.
Healthy City’s Importance to Environmental Health
The WHO defines the Healthy City as “one that is continually creating and improving those physical and social environments and expanding those community resources which enable people to mutually support each other in performing all the functions of life and in developing to their maximum potential.” A healthy city is not about the health sector only. It includes health considerations in economic, regeneration and urban development efforts. Its primary goal is to put health high on the social, economic and political agenda of city governments. (WHO Europe)
Environmental Health as a Global Concern
Earth is one giant system, with four main divisions which are the lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere. Hilgenkamp addressed several key reasons for environmental health being a global issue. The first issue was the world population increase. It was noted that from 1950 to 1975, the world population increased by 64%. Increasing population growth means an increased need for food and waste disposal. In order to accommodate this increase, additional land must be cleared, thus taking away additional natural resources needed to maintain oxygen and water supplies in the environment. (Hilgenkamp 25)
As population increases worldwide, so do the demands for energy. This increase in energy need increase the consumption of natural resources such as coal, oil, and uranium, that in turn endanger our water supplies. It also increase the amount of power plants needed, which increases the amount of air pollution, and in turn causes increases in atmospheric temperature known as global warming. In addition to the changes in climate, global warming also increase human illness because of the rise of new diseases and the reemergence of old ones. (Hilgenkamp 27)
Environmental Health as an Individual Concern
Since the environment provides us with so many resources such as clean air, clean water, and nutrients, environmental degradation directly influences human health. Because humans dominate most ecosystems on Earth we have a large impact on the environment, it is therefore a responsibility of each human to do their part to maintain environmental health. Overpopulation and demands on natural resources can degrade the environment. There are ways that each of us can facilitate the preservation of the environment and conservation of its resources, such as recycling products when possible, use pollution control devices, practice new farming techniques that reduce agricultural pollution, as well as adhere to laws put in place to protect us such as the Endangered Species Act, Clean Air Act, and Clean Water Act.
Hilgenkamp, Kathryn. Environmental Health: Ecological Perspectives. Jones & Bartlett Learning, 09/09/2005. VitalBook file. Preamble to the Constitution of the World Health Organization as adopted by the International Health Conference, New York, 19-22 June, 1946; signed on 22 July 1946 by the representatives of 61 States (Official Records of the World Health Organization, no. 2, p. 100) and entered into force on 7 April 1948. WHO Europe. Healthy Cities. Retrieved 6/10/2014 From http://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/environment-and-health/urban-health/activities/healthy-cities
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