INTERNATIONAL. Urbanization is negatively impacting the health of children and increasing their risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) – including heart disease and stroke – according to a new report published this week by the World Heart Federation.
“Children living in towns and cities face very real and growing health risks. Crowded living conditions, air and water pollution, limited green space and an overwhelming display of tobacco, alcohol and fast-food marketing, all disproportionately affecting certain populations and potentially impose limitations on how they live, work, eat and sustain themselves,” said Professor Sidney C. Smith Jr, MD, President, World Heart Federation.
“A misconception that CVD is a lifestyle disease that primarily afflicts older, affluent populations has until now led to the virtual absence of vital investment in the prevention and treatment of CVD and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Action to address urban health risks is therefore essential, to protect the health of our children and the prospects of future generations.”
Because the risk of CVD can be mitigated by changes to behaviour, there is a widespread perception that CVD is a “lifestyle” disease. However, many of the challenges posed by urban environments cannot be addressed simply through individual lifestyle choices. For most of the world’s people, and especially its children, where a person lives intrinsically affects their health and life options.
Around 50 per cent of the world’s population lives in an urban environment and this is generally increasing. Within the gulf region the percentage of urban population is significantly higher.
For example the urban population in the UAE is 78 per cent, in Jordan it is 79 per cent and in Saudi Arabia the urban dwellers represent 84 per cent of the nation’s population. Meanwhile Qatar has one of the highest percentage urban populations in the world at 96 per cent. [World Bank 2007–2010]
“Without a doubt urbanization has an important impact on health and particularly on that of children. The link between urbanization and heart health has been clearly established and as urban development across the region continues steps must be taken to protect the health of our children. Sustainable development in our cities and taking a multi-stakeholder approach to addressing the growing CVD burden is key” said Dr Nooshin Bazargani, Head of CVD prevention group of Emirates Cardiac Society.
“The World Congress of Cardiology, which will take place in Dubai in April, will provide us with an important opportunity to focus the attention of this region on what must be done to protect our future.”
About Cardiovascular Disease
CVD is the number one cause of death globally [WHO, 2011(d)]. Contrary to common belief, the burden of morbidity and mortality from heart disease is not confined to affluent, high-income countries; with the exception of sub-Saharan Africa, CVD is the leading cause of death in the developing world [Gaziano, 2007]. Within the UAE, around one in four deaths is due to cardiac disease. [HAAD, DHA]
The majority of deaths due to CVD are precipitated by risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, or the presence of diabetes, which can, to a large extent, be prevented or controlled through the consumption of a healthy diet, regular exercise and avoiding tobacco.
The rise of CVD in LMICs has therefore been linked to progressive urbanization and the coinciding “globalization of unhealthy lifestyles, which are facilitated by urban life – tobacco use, unhealthy diets, physical inactivity and harmful use of alcohol.” [WHO and UNHABITAT, 2010]
About the Report
“Urbanization and cardiovascular disease: Raising heart-healthy children in today’s cities” was developed by the World Heart Federation, a non-governmental organization committed to leading the global fight against heart disease and stroke, with a focus on low- and middle-income countries. The report text was guided by a team of experts at the World Heart Federation, including: Professor Sidney C. Smith Jr, MD, President (2011–2012); Johanna Ralston, Chief Executive Officer; and Professor Kathryn Taubert, PhD, Chief Science Officer.
About the World Heart Federation
The World Heart Federation is dedicated to leading the global fight against heart disease and stroke with a focus on low- and middle-income countries via a united community of more than 200 member organizations. With its members, the World Heart Federation works to build global commitment to addressing cardiovascular health at the policy level, generates and exchanges ideas, shares best practice, advances scientific knowledge and promotes knowledge transfer to tackle cardiovascular disease – the world’s number one killer.
It is a growing membership organization that brings together the strength of medical societies and heart foundations from more than 100 countries. Through our collective efforts we can help people all over the world to lead longer and better heart-healthy lives.
For more information, please visit www.worldheart.org
About the World Congress of Cardiology
The World Congress of Cardiology Scientific Sessions is the official congress of the World Heart Federation and is held every two years. Through the Congress the World Heart Federation offers an international stage for the latest developments in science and public outreach in the field of cardiovascular health.
The World Congress of Cardiology places emphasis on the complementary nature of science and public outreach and strives to spread the message that through individual, community and patient-care interventions, the growing epidemic of cardiovascular diseases can be prevented.
For more information, please visit www.worldcardiocongress.org