“Urban” communities can be defined in different ways, but generally, an urban area is a region surrounding a city. Urban communities have drawn and continue to attract many people—cities provide many benefits to residents, including proximity to work, recreational activities, access to health care, and public transportation. However, there are health problems associated with living in urban communities, including higher rates of poor nutrition, pollution-related health conditions and communicable diseases, poor sanitation and housing conditions, and related health conditions. Urbanization is also linked to high rates of depression, anxiety, and mental ill health. All of these have direct impacts on quality of life and strain public health systems and resources. More than 300 metropolitan areas in America have a population above 100,000.
As cities grow and thrive, urban populations have access to more resources and better health care, but at the same time, health disparities are often more stark in urban areas. Lower-income, non-white residents of dense and diverse urban neighborhoods are disproportionately affected. People of lower socioeconomic status are disproportionately placed at a disadvantage to absorb negative impacts from urbanization; for instance, places where poor residents live often fall outside city compliance for safety. Unemployment and underemployment are typically higher for the urban poor, and many face not only low wages, but also a lack of social insurance and unsafe working conditions.
Cities can bolster residents’ financial security, which will foster capital flow and lead residents to spur economic growth and improve overall living standards. Strategies to increase equitable well-being in urban areas include: eradicating poverty through promoting development and job creation, fostering social inclusion and non-discrimination, expanding affordable housing and health care, promoting healthy environments and more green space, and reducing air pollution. Ensuring residents have clean drinking water, sanitation, drainage, paved roads and paths, solid waste collection is important. Collaborative planning involves urban planners, policymakers, healthcare professionals, community organizations, and residents in efforts to improve urban communities and population health. Taking a Health In All Policies (HiAP) approach and engaging in joint decision-making ensures that urban development projects consider health impacts and prioritize community well-being.