News / Africa

Study: Urbanization Can Bring Health Risks

In this photo taken Oct. 30, 2008, offices and apartment buildings are shown in Beijing, China. In the sprawling megacities of Beijing, Shanghai and Chongqing, where populations exceed 10 million people, extreme urban density means that the number of people living within a few blocks equals those in a whole mid-size U.S. city. China's urban population soared to 607 million last year out of a population of 1.3 billion. Three decades ago nearly 80 percent lived in the countryside, but urbanization continues unabated as job-seeking rural migrants flood into cities. The scale and pace continues to soar, and by current trends, the urban population will hit one billion by 2030. (AP Photo/Elizabeth Dalziel)
In this photo taken Oct. 30, 2008, offices and apartment buildings are shown in Beijing, China. In the sprawling megacities of Beijing, Shanghai and Chongqing, where populations exceed 10 million people, extreme urban density means that the number of people living within a few blocks equals those in a whole mid-size U.S. city. China's urban population soared to 607 million last year out of a population of 1.3 billion. Three decades ago nearly 80 percent lived in the countryside, but urbanization continues unabated as job-seeking rural migrants flood into cities. The scale and pace continues to soar, and by current trends, the urban population will hit one billion by 2030. (AP Photo/Elizabeth Dalziel)

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua

New research shows urbanization may be bad for people’s health, unless planners develop cities that allow healthier lifestyles and environments.  The U.N. estimates much of the developing and developed world will be urbanized by 2050.

Listen to De Capua report on urbanization and health
Listen to De Capua report on urbanization and healthi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

Rural sub-Saharan Africa is seeing rapidly increasing urbanization. Something, researchers say, “could lead to an explosion” in rates of heart disease and diabetes.

They estimate more than a half-billion people now live in rural areas of the continent, where there are lower rates of non-communicable diseases.  But that’s changing and they warn that even small changes toward urbanization could affect health.

Dr. Manjinder,  joint senior author of the study, which appears in the journal PLOS Medicine, said, “We think in lots of low and middle income countries around the world – and not specifically to countries in Africa – that one is going to see a massive change in the burden of such diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease. And this comes together with an existing high burden of endemic infection and chronic infectious diseases, but also this parallel rise in these noncommunicable diseases.”

He said chronic infections can worsen the effects of noncommunicable diseases that accompany urbanization.

“Chronic infections can lead to an increased risk of such diseases. For example, HIV, its treatment and the potential risk of those factors on heart disease and diabetes risk. We know that Hepatitis C virus is an oncogenic virus. It’s a cancer causing virus and together with HIV may increase the risk of cancers.”

Urbanization does have an upside with greater access to education and healthcare, for example. But researchers warn it can be a double-edged sword.

With urbanization there are also lifestyle changes, such as adopting a more Western diet that’s high in fat, sugar and salt, less physical activity, greater alcohol consumption and weight gain.

Sandhu said, “We can see a compounding effect of all these inter-related risk factors on increasing the burden of risk. And I think Africa is a good example of trying to understand urbanicity, but also it’s a good example of where this could occur again in other regions around the world where similar events and scenarios and environments are occurring.”

Dr. Sandhu is with the Department of Public Health and Primary Care at the University of Cambridge and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute.

Researchers base their findings on more than 7,300 people living in 25 villages in Uganda. Each person in the study was given – what’s called – an urbanicity score. It measured lifestyle risk factors as rural areas became more urbanized.

“The interesting thing about studying rural communities is that one can see that the civil infrastructure is relatively nascent. It’s a building and growing infrastructure. And if one can think about what facets of that changing infrastructure [are] potentially associated with risk of noncommunicable diseases, one may think about addressing and perhaps changing or building an environment that is more conducive to a healthy lifestyle,” he said.

Sandhu said risk factors created by urbanization should be considered when coming up with replacements for the expiring Millennium Development Goals.

“I think that should be a paramount goal to at least consider how the impact of those changing civil infrastructures are potentially leading to a change in lifestyle and other behavioral risk factors that are leading to an increased risk of chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease,” he said.

Joining Cambridge researchers in the study were those from the Uganda Virus Research Institute, Australia’s Deakin University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

You May Like

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs