The 2019 Global Health Forum in Taiwan was held at the Taipei International Convention Center from October 20th to 21st. The theme of the forum is “Urban Life of the 21st Century: Sustainable, Safe and Healthy?” The Forum invited various renowned experts from various nations around the world, such as Jay C. Butler, M.D, Deputy Director for Infectious Diseases of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to discuss issues on urban environment and health. The topics of the Forum included One Health, city leadership, Healthy Cities 2.0, Sustainable Development Goals, Urbanization and Big Data. A total of 83 distinguished guests from 33 countries and over 1,500 attendees have participated in the Forum this year.
Challenges and Opportunities of Urbanization as the urban population of the world grows beyond 4 billion
According to World Health Organization (WHO), urbanization is a process of changing social and environmental landscapes on a global scale, due to the natural demographic growth in urban areas and influx of population migration of population from rural areas. According to the statistics of the World Bank, in 2007 the population living in towns and cities has for the first time in history surpassed 50% of the world’s total population; by 2018, the population in urban areas have exceeded 4 billion, accounting for 55.3% of the total population. As urban populations grow, the quality of urban environment will play an increasingly important role in public health, with respect to issues ranging from waste disposal, access to potable water sources, sanitation and injury prevention, to issues relating to urban poverty, environment and health. To help countries address the challenges of urbanization, the United Nation has launched the Sustainable Development Goals, addressing the issues of urbanization through SDG 11: “Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”. Relevant topics includes affordable and safe housing; inclusive and sustainable urbanization; safe, accessible and affordable transport system, etc.
Healthy City in 21st Century: “The rule of city leadership” and “Towards One Planet Cities”
Dr. Agis Tsouros, former Director of Healthy Cities of the WHO Regional Office for Europe. Dr. Tsouros presented that the concept of Healthy Cities is now more relevant than ever, after its inception some four decades ago. He emphasized that stronger city leadership and actions are essential for tackling public health, social and environmental challenges—as well as the implementation of new sustainable development goals for the planet. Prof. Trevor Hancock, the first leader of the Green Party of Canada, demonstrated that the “Anthropocene” concept, a new geologic epoch that humanity has created. The new geologic layers that characterize the Anthropocene represent dramatic and rapid changes in multiple Earth systems that, together, are the ultimate ecological determinants of our health. Collectively, humanity already exceeds the Earth’s bio-capacity. Yet we have only one planet, and we have to learn to live together, in harmony with each other and the Earth, in a way that ensures a good quality of life and good health for everyone.
Health and Environmental Protection Officials from Taiwan and U.S. Explored Building of a Healthier Urban Environment
The world is facing various challenges brought by urbanization. During the Forum, experts and scholars from the U.S. were invited to Taiwan to discuss topics relevant to urbanization.. Mr. Chang Tzi-Chin, Taiwan’s Minister of Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) and the officials from U.S. EPA and health departments were invited to discuss how to achieve healthier urban environments within available resources, demonstrating cross-border, sectoral and discipline cooperation for the benefits of upholding environmental health. In addition, the Forum featured nine parallel sessions on urban life of the 21st century. Topics included “Population Aging and Technology Innovation”, “Urban Mental and Oral Health”, “Forging Ahead in a New Era of Cancer Prevention and Control”, “Environmental Health Promotion and Policy for Children”, “Dementia Environmental Design”, “Child Health in the 21st century”, “Loneliness in the Elderly”, “Caring for the Disadvantaged Healthcare”, and “Acute Care for Elders in a Super-aged Society”. The discussions and sharing of experiences in the Forum would serve as foundation to develop a series of strategies tackling future challenges for urban health and environment, as well as for realization of the sustainable development goals.