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

    Syrian Rebel Realignment Likely as al-Qaida Leader Blesses Split

    Jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra splits from al-Qaida in what observers dub a ‘deception and denial’ exercise

    New India Child Labor Law Could Make Children More Vulnerable

    Concerns that allowing children to work in family enterprises will push more to work

    What Take-out Food Reveals About American History

    Carry-out food explains a lot about the changes taking place in society, so here's the deal with pizza, Chinese food and what racism has to do with taking food to go

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Busi
    X
    July 28, 2016 4:16 AM
    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora