In order to discuss solutions for increasingly challenged health services in urban areas in low- and middle-income countries, the Novartis Foundation co-hosted the Urban Health in Africa Dialogue event in Cape Town (South Africa) on Februry 6 and 7. The event, the first of its kind in Africa, was a partnership with the International Society for Urban health (ISUH), InterAcademy Partnership (IAP) – Health (IAP), International Council for Science (ICSU), Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), and the University of Basel.
For two days, panelists and participants took a closer look at emerging issues that need to be dealt with, particularly the nexus between urban health and urban planning, which requires multi-disciplinary efforts to move ahead with common agendas.
On day one, the dialogue focused on research, education, policy and capacity building. It featured two panel sessions, one of which focused on frameworks for advancing urban health, the other on creating health in African cities.
“It will be important to translate these global agendas to local agendas to form the basis for policy, research and implementation action at a regional, national and municipal level,” said Jo Boufford, President at The New York Academy of Medicine.
The second day was devoted to more pragmatic approaches to urban health in discussions of implementation efforts in African cities and specific efforts to pursue a multidisciplinary approach. The day included small group discussions, case examples and panel discussions.
Urbanization and its consequences
More than 50 percent of the world's population now lives in urban areas, and that number is projected to grow to more than70 percent by 2050. Besides all the social, cultural and political issues spawned by this massive change in land occupation, it has caused a growth of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), especially amongst those in low- and middle-income countries. 75 percent of NCD deaths occur in those area, totalling 28 million deaths per year.
One of the messages coming out of the event is that to overcome the challenges, public and private agents need to collaborate. Strong leadership in these countries will need to lead the change.
“We believe that by bringing together global and local partners from various sectors and disciplines, we can work to address the underlying risk factors of chronic non-communicable diseases in urban settings, which often lie beyond the realm of healthcare,” said Ann Aerts, head of the Novartis Foundation. “With their expertise in diverse fields, we hope to identify novel approaches to create robust and sustainable interventions which can have measureable impact on public health.”