FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 7, 2010
Contact: HHS Press Office
Statement of Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius On World Health Day, April 7, 2010
This year’s World Health Day theme, “Urbanization and Health: Urban Health Matters,” reminds us that many of those people most at risk of poor health around the world live in cities.
Over half of the world’s people live in cities, with more than one billion living in urban slums. By 2050 it is predicted that almost three-quarters of the world’s population will call urban and metropolitan areas home. Most of them will be poor. Urbanization is spreading so fast across the globe that it has outpaced the ability of governments to make life in cities safe, rewarding, and healthy, particularly in developing countries.
But urbanization isn’t just an issue for other nations. It’s also an issue here in the United States. Today, 80 percent of Americans live in cities.
Health and quality of life for people living in cities is a high priority for the U.S. It’s why President Obama created the White House Office of Urban Affairs, and it’s why the U.S. is participating in international forums about urbanization—including, most recently, UN-Habitat World Urban Forum V, at which Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan and White House Office of Urban Affairs Director Adolfo Carrion represented the U.S.
It’s also why the White House and multiple federal agencies are working alongside the Department of Health and Human Services to protect urban health. When the First Lady’s Let’s Move campaign pushes for grocery stores with fresh produce, safe sidewalks, and public spaces, she’s bringing Administration-wide support to this department’s efforts to promote healthier lifestyles and reduce obesity and heart disease. When the Environmental Protection Agency takes steps to reduce pollution, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development works to develop green and healthy homes, they are HHS partners in lowering the number of kids with asthma. When the State Department joins ministries across the globe to slow climate change, it is supporting our work to slow the spread of infectious disease as well.
HHS recently took part in a dramatic demonstration of the world’s commitment to health in its cities with the outpouring of international support for the residents of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, after the devastating earthquake in that country. While we saw how essential our medical personnel were in responding to this public health disaster, we also saw how important it is to have engineers, volunteers, and others on the ground to ensure residents had clean water, nutritious food, and safe public spaces.
Unfortunately, in much of Port-au-Prince even before the earthquake—like so many places around the world—clean air, nutritious food, drinkable water, adequate housing, and safe public spaces have not been a routine part of urban life. As the number of people who call cities home continues to grow in the future, so will the public health challenges we all face.
At HHS, we are pleased to join the World Health Organization and people around the world in answering World Health Day's call to action, and to work closely with the international community to improve life and health in cities at home and abroad.
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Last revised: May 7, 2011