Unhealthy urban India must get into street fight mode – Addressing Urban Health Challenges in India: A Holistic Approach | 26 October 2023 | UPSC Daily Editorial Analysis

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What's the article about?

  • It talks about the health issues related to Urban population in India.


  • GS1: Urbanization, their problems and their remedies


  • India's urban population is projected to reach 675 million by 2035, the second-highest in the world. However, cities in India are failing to deliver on health, environmental, and equity targets, despite their role in driving the country's economic growth.
  • Urban inhabitants in India face various health risks, including high levels of air and noise pollution, limited green spaces, and lack of access to sidewalks and parks.
  • These factors contribute to the prevalence of cardiometabolic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes, which have reached epidemic proportions in Indian cities.


  • Need for a New Paradigm in Public Health:
    • Addressing the social, environmental, and infrastructure risk factors that contribute to cardiometabolic diseases requires a transformation in the design of the built local environment and provisioning systems.
    • There are seven key physical provisioning systems that provide food, energy, mobility-transportation, housing, green infrastructure, water, and waste management, which are crucial for human health, well-being, equity, and sustainability.
    • Dysfunctional provisioning systems not only contribute to health risks but also exacerbate social inequalities in cities.
    • To improve health and well-being in cities, a new narrative is needed, as reflected in high-level policy frameworks such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) framework, the New Urban Agenda, and the Health in All Policies approach.
  • Double or Triple-Duty Actions:
    • Investments in clean energy and electric mobility offer an opportunity to improve health by reducing air pollution levels.
    • However, the impact of these investments on health outcomes may be limited if not accompanied by changes in other provisioning systems such as food, mobility, and green infrastructure.
    • Small changes in these systems can have a significant catalytic effect on health and productivity, making them double or triple-duty interventions. For example, promoting safe walking and biking lanes can not only improve physical activity but also reduce the risk from air pollution.
    • Regular physical exercise is the most effective deterrent against cardiometabolic diseases and can help mitigate the impact of other risk factors such as poor diets.

Way Forward:

  • Urban policies that promote population health are powerful interventions. However, health is often an afterthought in most national urban planning policies, including those from lower and middle-income countries like India. Unhealthy diets, reduced physical activity, and air pollution pose a greater risk to morbidity and mortality in Indian cities than most other risk factors combined, including drugs, tobacco, alcohol, and accidents. Dealing with these challenges requires a comprehensive and integrated approach that includes improving access to healthcare, strengthening health systems, and addressing the social determinants of health.

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