Currently, over half the world's population lives in urban areas, a proportion which is only expected to increase. Urbanization trends present both opportunities for better health outcomes, as well as risks. Urban populations tend to have greater access to social and health services, higher literacy rates, longer life expectancies, and more varied opportunities for economic development than their rural counterparts. Nonetheless, deficiencies in strategic urban planning can lead to social inequities, urban poverty, violent crime, inadequate access to basic services, unmet needs of diverse populations, lack of social cohesion, environmental hazards, and poor conditions that affect safety, mental health and human security. Though the trends of urbanization are highly interdependent, multi-level and complex, the adverse effects of these conditions are increasingly concentrated among the urban poor. These inequities in health status and outcomes pose a great threat to the Region as they erode progress made on other margins in health.
The Region of the Americas is one of the most urbanized regions in the developing world. The health consequences of evolving standards of urban life present enormous challenges, as well as opportunities for visionary changes, for urban populations of the Americas.