News / USA

    City Living Can be Bad for Your Health

    High number of poor urban residents poses special challenges for health professionals

    Health risks associated with 21st century city living include overcrowding, poor air quality, indoor air pollution, respiratory problems and high population  density.
    Health risks associated with 21st century city living include overcrowding, poor air quality, indoor air pollution, respiratory problems and high population density.

    Multimedia

    Audio

    The vast majority of Americans live in cities and urban life carries special health risks. Overcrowding leads to greater stress, which can lead to violence, according to Dr. Jo Boufford, president of the New York Academy of Medicine. And the complexity of cities makes them harder to navigate, which can lead to, or complicate, mental illness. City air is often polluted, and that can cause respiratory problems.

    "All of those things play out in an urban environment in ways they don’t play out outside of cities, and they have an effect on people’s health, on people’s well being and on daily life," says Boufford. "But the real thing that runs through higher incidence of disease is largely poverty. That’s the bottom line."

    The fact that a high proportion of urban residents are poor, poses special challenges for health professionals, who gathered recently at a National Urban Health Conference in New York. Health workers, academics and community activists met to share strategies for delivering quality health care to the urban poor.  

    Many people from the business world also attended the urban health conference. Employers who buy health insurance for their workers must pay higher premiums when more employees become sick. That cuts into profits. That’s why many employers offer preventative care.

    "They provide health education opportunities for their own employees. Many of them provide opportunities ‘in-house’ for people to stop smoking," Boufford says. "They provide programs for people who feel they may be depressed or they have a substance abuse problem to get help, weight-loss programs, exercise programs, giving people a break in lunch hour to get out into the community and walk. So the return on investment is pretty clear at this point."

    Obesity - a condition which can lead to diabetes, cancers and cardiac and respiratory problems - is epidemic in America’s cities. The Centers for Disease Control reports that more than half of New York African-Americans are obese. Javier Lopez, director of New York’s Strategic Alliance for Health, says the problem is especially severe among children in minority neighborhoods.

    He believes fatty, highly-processed foods are partly to blame, but so is lack of exercise. He says that some of New York City’s educational policies for example, such as mandatory standardized testing, don’t help. When there is an open hour in a school day schedule, teachers often choose to fill it with academic drilling rather than physical education.    

    "So then you have to look at opportunities outside of the school day for physical activity. You have more bike lanes, for instance, in some urban settings now. So now you have to think about what programs are going to bring young people use those bike lanes," says Lopez. "You have to think about what bike-sharing programs are available in urban settings and thinking outside the box, using the landscape to be more effective for physical activity."

    Lopez says that his obesity prevention work focuses on adults as well as children.

    "For adults, the opportunity lies in educating on the availability of free and inexpensive programs. A lot of community centers offer free exercise classes that are readily available for folks. It’s just that a lot of the advertising and marketing for some of those programs need to be bulked up so more people can take advantage of them."

    Better health education is key, says Dr. Aubrey Clark, a Harlem Hospital Center cardiologist. He led a panel at the conference on atherosclerosis. That’s a clogging of the arteries linked to stress, poor diet and other factors which can lead to diabetes, heart attack, stroke and other health issues.

    "In terms of an institution, the education would involve outreach, screening in the communities, symposia and other outreach-type conferences to reach different organizations within the community, and inviting community members to functions such as this," says Clark. "On the clinical level, we want to make sure we have a multidisciplinary team approach to our patients, not only when they are acutely ill and hospitalized but to prepare them upon discharge to make sure they know what they are responsible for in terms of making sure that their health is as best as they can have it."

    Boufford adds that health education is actually a two-way street between health providers and the communities they serve. This can be difficult in urban communities where many illegal immigrants live. They fear that visibility may lead to deportation. But in the case of outreach to the elderly by the New York Academy of Medicine and its partners, the efforts are bearing fruit.

    "What do they say makes it easier or harder to live in the city?" says Boufford. "The kinds of things they raise are crossing the street, 'The streetlights are too fast. I can’t get across the street.’ ‘The sidewalks have pits or holes in them.’ ‘I can’t come out at night.’ ‘I can’t sit down when I go to a local business.’ These are simple things to solve and part of our initiative is to help do that."       

    Many participants at the National Urban Health Conference said they gained both knowledge and encouragement from the gathering. But most agreed that the challenges facing health care providers in America’s cities will continue to grow in the decades to come.

    You May Like

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora