How City Residents Can Achieve Better Health Despite the Congestion

Nairobi city

Six years ago marked the first time in human history that the majority of the world's people lived in cities. Africa has not been left behind, with the growing population introducing challenges in day to day health.

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More growth translates into more pollution, congestion and scramble for amenities like fresh water. Infectious and waterborne diseases are transmitted more easily in congested environments. The air is polluted with gasoline and diesel exhausts, and the general grime stirred by millions of people. This predisposes to heart attacks, strokes, asthma and a host of other ill-health problems. The unavoidable noise pollution increases the risks of high blood pressure and heart attacks as evidenced by studies. Constant city lighting (even with the inevitable frequent blackouts!), interferes with sleeping patterns. The body clock mechanism is disturbed, leading to sleep disturbances and increased stress levels. And the general lifestyle is more sedentary, increasing health risks even more.

So how can Africans help themselves? 

Exercises are a panacea of many ills. Most African cities are awash with accessible green parks for walking, cycling or simply enjoying the fresh air. But a look at most public parks reveals the need for better maintenance and public safety. Walkways and cycling paths are mostly unavailable and abused by rude motorists. It’s better to walk on the innermost portion of sidewalks; studies have shown that there is less exposure to unhealthy airborne particulates than walking closer to the road.

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Health and fitness clubs in Most African cities are mostly private. Ordinary hard-working Africans can hardly afford health club memberships which provide indoor health activities. They can invest in publicly accessible facilities, charging only nominal fees for maintenance as happens in cities elsewhere. The number of families out on weekends, in freely accessible eateries that offer a semblance of such amenities, gives credence to the potential of such an investment. If all else fails, some physical exercises in respective neighborhoods early in the mornings when the air is fresh is an alternative.

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And if sleeping is a problem, sleeping with ear muffs comes in handy in noisy neighborhoods. Necessary authorities can always help if necessary. Heavy curtains help block excessive street lighting that interferes with sleep patterns.

Finally, the disparity of quality of health services in most African cities need addressing. Majority of the public can only afford the public health facilities, where resources and quality are wanting. City residents deserve more equity of health care, easily achieved with more healthcare investments.
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