Global city boom could cut rich vs poor health divide

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An array of motorbikes crossing Long Bien Bridge on the Red River in Hanoi, Viet Nam. Half of the world's population lives in urban environments. UN Photo/Kibae

The key global goal of extending health coverage for all people is proving hard to achieve, but it could be helped by the world's growing urban population, the UN said Thursday.

Citing research into city-dwellers in nearly 100 countries, the UN report found that besides health inequality, urbanization offers major opportunities to improve people's life expectancy.

Here's Daniel Johnson in Geneva.

Cities are growing the world over and today more than half the planet's population lives in one; that's around 3.7 billion people.

Research from the UN has shown that as the world's urban population continues to grow, health inequality is never far behind.

This health gap is especially clear in less well-off countries, with children in the poorest urban households twice as likely to die before their fifth birthday compared with their richer counterparts.

Now, as countries strive to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, Jeanette Elsworth from the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) says that the global city boom could be a major force for good:

"It's much easier and much cheaper to provide basic services which have a massive impact on health, such as water, sanitation … to communities living in … urban areas, than it is to remote rural areas …and individual settlements that are very widely spread out."

According to the joint World Health Organization (WHO) / UN-Habitat report, at least 400 million women, men and children around the world don't have access to affordable health care.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 1’11″

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