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Friday, March 06, 2009

How to start building health globally

In Building Health Globally (BHG), we must begin by prioritising the interconnections between housing and health. Within international development, a great many issue come and go – holding headlines, stirring sensations and driving donor-dollars. The past twenty years hasve seen an emphasis placed on post-disaster reconstruction, famines, conflict, epidemics and recently climate change. The challenges to development are not confined to improved roads, education, health or carbon emissions alone. They are widespread, much more than mentioned and so too are the strategies for success – these are in fact multi-sectoral. My advocacy for pairing human settlements and health stands on my firm belief and observation that the two are mutually informing agents of development.

From Maslow to MDGs, adequate housing and health are necessities for reversing cycles of poverty and installing the seeds of improved livelihoods for persons in many countries. When AIDS has run its course, ie. A vaccine has been developed and new infections, are minimal , we will still be under threat much as we have always been, from new and emerging diseases that threaten to be even more devastating than those of the 20th century. BHG for the 21st century is designing and building effective and sustainable quarantine strategies in response to an influenza pandemic, building well–ventilated homes to limit TB risks, covering interior dirt floors to prevent diarrhoea, and making home repairs to prevent Chagas. Increasingly, BHG will also require building for the millions affected by Neglected Tropical Diseases such as Bilharzias, even though it is not yet our problem. The increased threat from poor health is among the greatest threat to our urbanized world.

As the urban population sets to double over the next 20 years, one can only imagine the outcome. Building Green, must necessarily first mean building health. We cannot think of sustainable and integrated approaches to our brave new urban world without a focused strategy of how to simultaneously improve urban living conditions and health.


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