Baltimore, Maryland – An in-depth, international report on the increasing urbanization of the world’s population features Jhpiego’s work in the slums of Nairobi and its innovative programs to improve health services for women and their families.
The report, “Hidden Cities: Unmasking and Overcoming Health Inequities in Urban Settings,” was produced jointly by the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) and discusses the rise of people living in cities as “one of the most important global health issues of the 21st century.” Its analysis mines data on international urbanization for unreported trends, presents new findings about the health status of city residents and calls on policymakers worldwide to respond to the disparity in health in cities.
“Averages hide large pockets of disadvantage and poor health, concealing the reality of people’s lives,” said WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan. “This new analysis uncovers gaps in health and healthcare access across urban populations, and shows city leaders where their efforts should focus.”
Jhpiego’s expertise in urban health issues is highlighted in two areas of the report. The organization’s urban health program began in 2005 in Kenya under the direction of then Country Director, Dr. Pamela Lynam, and Jhpiego’s urban health specialist, Jane Otai, and with support from the Rockefeller Foundation and the Wallace Global Fund. The program initially focused on improving reproductive health services and family planning options for residents in the impoverished areas of Korogocho and Viwandani slums.
Jhpiego’s approach to helping residents become engaged participants in their health has since been replicated in its work in Eastern Kenya and now across the country through its leadership of a $22.9 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to lead the foundation’s Kenya Urban Reproductive Health Initiative.
Here is an excerpt from the WHO/UN report:
According to Jhpiego, a nongovernmental organization working in the area, health is jeopardized in Nairobi’s urban slums due to the following factors:
INADEQUATE HEALTH SERVICES AND POOR ACCESS TO HEALTH SERVICES. Health-care services are generally unavailable to urban slum dwellers. Qualified private facilities are too expensive, unlicensed providers can be dangerous, and government facilities are in general disrepair and are feared by community members due to rumours about their services. Additionally, Nairobi’s urban poor often have a limited understanding of health issues and do not know where to access health-care services.
UNHEALTHY LIFESTYLES AND UNSTABLE SOCIAL STRUCTURES. Reduced access to safe food and water, poor sanitation, a breakdown of traditional family structures, and high unemployment rates affect slum dwellers’ health. The urban cash economy forces slum dwellers to choose to spend scarce money either on health care or on other basic needs.
INSECURITY AND NEGLECT. Slum dwellers live in overcrowded, poorly constructed housing, often with insecure land possession. High crime coupled with disrespect by local authorities result in disenfranchised populations that distrust formalized services of any kind, including health services.
Jhpiego (pronounced “ja-pie-go”), is an international non-profit health organization affiliated with Johns Hopkins University. For 35 years, Jhpiego has empowered front-line health workers by designing and implementing effective, low-cost, hands-on solutions to strengthen the delivery of health care services for women and their families. By putting evidence-based health innovations into everyday practice, Jhpiego works to break down barriers to high-quality health care for the world’s most vulnerable populations. For more information go to www.jhpiego.org.