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Design cities differently and it can help us live longer

In this article, originally published in The Conversation, Dr Tolullah Oni, and Rizka Maulida, write about the urgent need to design cities in a way that protects individual and planetary health.

By 2050, it is projected that almost 70% of the world’s population will be living in cities, up from 55% today. The fastest urban growth is happening in Asia and Africa, which is also where we’re seeing a rapid rise in people suffering from, and dying of, heart disease.

The impact of non-communicable diseases on the world population’s health is growing. Non-communicable diseases are those that are not directly transmissible from one person to another. By 2030, scientists predict they will account for 77% of the global burden of disease. Cardiovascular or heart disease is the most common type, responsible for 44% of all deaths related to this category.

New research from the University Medical Centre in Mainz, Germany, explores how urbanisation exacerbates the risks of such diseases. Young people are increasingly concentrated in the world’s cities. Their future health is at risk. Can city planning can be harnessed to protect their health?

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Blog: South Africa must ban sugary drinks sales in schools. Self regulation is failing

Agnes Erzse, Karen Hofman and Nicola Christofides write about GDAR research assessing the food environment in primary schools in Gauteng following a voluntary pledge by a large beverage company. This blog post was originally published in The Conversation

In 2017, Coca-Cola Beverages South Africa voluntarily announced that it would stop supplying sugary beverages to primary school outlets. The company also pledged to remove all branding and advertising from schools. The announcement took the form of a letter noting that that Coca-Cola Beverages wanted to play “an active role in addressing rising obesity rates in South Africa, especially among children”.

Childhood obesity is a serious and growing problem is South Africa. More than 13% of children are either obese or overweight. The consumption of liquid sugar is particularly harmful because it is absorbed so quickly into the bloodstream. Not surprisingly, sugary drinks and their marketing has been linked to obesity especially among children. Just a single sugary beverage per day increases that child’s chance of overweight by 55%. Similarly, once they become an overweight teen, there is a 70% chance they will not be able to lose the weight.

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