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Lancet, Tsinghua jointly release report on China’s healthy cities

2018-04-20 04:55:30 CGTN

The world-renowned medical journal, Lancet, and one of China’s most prestigious universities, Tsinghua, have jointly published a comprehensive report on building healthy cities in China.

“Cities are key to the realization of a healthy China,” says the 46-page report, titled “Healthy Cities: Unlocking the Power of Cities for a Healthy China,” which aimed to characterize and address urban health challenges in the unique context of China’s rapid and dynamic urban development.

In the past few decades, China has undergone what’s seen as the biggest and fastest urbanization in human history, and it’s by no means over. By 2030, China's cities will house close to a billion people. As a result, more people than ever now enjoy health benefits that cities can provide. But the mass mobilization has also created unprecedented health challenges, such as ageing, pollution, shifts in diet and lifestyle, and social inequality.

The report, which took 45 exports from different countries and disciplines two years to compile, concludes that efforts to combat China’s urban health issues should be unified with the Healthy City movement, which calls for a systematic approach to health management. It recommended, among other measures, the integration of health into all policy making.

“When we think about the health of a city, we have to go beyond simply the hospitals, the doctors, the nurses,” Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of the Lancet, told CGTN. “The organization of the city, the economics of the city, the social organization in the city, the transport, the housing, the education in schools – all of these elements go to make up what a healthy city is.”

The first Healthy Cities programs started in Europe in 1986. The ambition was to put health high on the social and political agenda of cities. In recent years, China has recognized health as the centerpiece of sustainable development, highlighted in the Healthy China 2030 plan. Released in 2016 by the State Council, it’s seen as a dramatic departure from the country’s traditional strategies.

“In the past, health was just one of various goals for society advancement,” the Tsinghua-Lancet report points out. “By contrast, the new plan presents health as the foundation for all socio-economic development, calls for the integration of health into all policies, and emphasizes the importance of addressing the environmental and social determinants of health.”

While a national strategy has been put into place, few cities in China explicitly state an intent to incorporate health into urban planning, which is identified as one of the most important for developing healthy cities. “Poor urban planning and design are root causes for many urban health problems in China,” the report reads.

Other gaps in the development of healthy cities in China include a top-down approach in which the public and private sectors are relegated to a secondary role, and a lack of intersectional cooperation for dealing with complex urban health issues.

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