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An update on the Global Forum on Urbanization and Health

An update on the Global Forum on Urbanization and Health from Richard Bradford

15 November 2010 – Around 300 people from more than 90 countries reached Portopia Hotel for start of the Global Forum on Urbanization and Health today. Over 50 ministers, mayors and other dignitaries are in attendance. The forum opened with a performance of traditional Japanese instruments, the shamisen and the tsutsumi drum. In welcome remarks, Kobe mayor Tatsuo Yada expressed his city’s readiness to cooperate with other cities around the world in addressing health and urbanization. Next, Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare Permanent Secretary Mitsunori Okamoto endorsed the forum’s focus on intersectoral action to improve health in cities. WHO Western Pacific Regional Director Shin Young-Soo reiterated that one billion people live in appalling conditions and that a major factor is unplanned urbanization, leading to major health problems.

African Union Commission for Social Affairs, Bience Gawanas was keynote speaker of the first plenary, setting the scene for the forum with an overview of the health challenges facing cities today. Gawanas challenged participants by asking, “When people come to the city, are they valued?”

Eight focus sessions were held discussing infectious and noncommunicable disease, climate change, urban environmental health threats, evidence, “cleaner and greener” urban services, disaster risks, health systems and health in slums.

Shen Xiaoming, the Vice Mayor of Shanghai was keynote speaker for the second plenary, giving a detailed overview of the city’s progressive plans for public health and presenting a futuristic and inspiring film about Shanghai’s hi-tech vision of health services in 2015.

The day ended with a special meeting on intersectoral action on health and an evening session where delegates heard about the health initiatives in cities from El Paso, Texas to Windhoek, Namibia. Dr. Vlahov from the New York Academy of Medicine moderated this session leading conference participants through the award winning presentations.

Alex Rothman, Coordinator
International Society for Urban Health
The New York Academy of Medicine
Email: arothman@nyam.org

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