City Living: The Deadly Cause of Non-Communicable Diseases

Image: Jose Martin-Ramirez/Unsplash


Is city living killing us? What are the causes of NCDs and what does the city have to do with it? A panel of health professionals share their views and solutions on fighting non-communicable diseases at the 9th World Urban Forum.

Story by Maya Tan

On June 1st, 2018, The World Health Organization (WHO) published a fact sheet on Non-Communicable Diseases or NCDs - non-contagious health conditions involving the heart and vascular systems, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and also diabetes.

The fact sheet states: “These diseases are driven by forces that include rapid unplanned urbanization, globalization of unhealthy lifestyles and population ageing. Unhealthy diets and a lack of physical activity may show up in people as raised blood pressure, increased blood glucose, elevated blood lipids and obesity. These are called metabolic risk factors that can lead to cardiovascular disease, the leading NCD in terms of premature deaths.”

But the statistics are alarming; NCDs kill 41 million people each year, equivalent to 71% of all deaths globally.

As cities continue to grow worldwide, so does the demand for housing, food and other basic resources which takes its toll on the environment. Urbanisation also promotes a more sedentary lifestyle, increasing the risk of NCDs such as heart attacks or stroke, diabetes, and cancer creating a direct link to NCDs.

In this podcast episode  we highlight the views and ideas of the panel of speakers at an event organised by the Center for Indonesian Medical Students’ Activities (CIMSA) and held at the 9th World Urban Forum, 2018.


Uta Dietrich, Senior Programme Manager, Think City

Uta Dietrich, senior programme manager at Think City makes several key points on the situation surrounding NCDs in Asia. From an urban design perspective, Uta comments on the effects of rapid urbanisation, coupled with the aspect of an ageing population. She raises the issue of pollution as a key contributor to NCDs and tells us about the weak link in the fight against NCDs, offering her perspective on solutions to the issue.


Dr. Sudhvir Singh, Policy Director, EAT Foundation. Image:

Dr. Sudhvir Singh, doctor of internal medicine and Policy Director for EAT, a Foundation based in Scandinavia advocates bringing the public health and environmental sustainability sectors together to design and implement global food system solutions. In addressing the health advocates at WUF9, Sudhvir stresses that it’s important to work with industries outside of the medical sector because poor health affects them too, especially commercially, and tells us why youth empowerment is crucial.


Dr Charles Ebikeme, Science Officer, ICSU. Image: ICSU


Dr. Charles Ebikeme, a former biomedical scientist, and currently Science Officer at the International Council for Science (ICSU)tells us about the burden faced by health workers in facing the challenges of fighting NCDs and how to talk to policy-makers using health as a point of leverage.

While the panel involved other speakers, this podcast has been produced with the consent of Uta Dietrich, Sudhvir Singh and Charles Ebikeme.







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