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This year, World Health Day focuses on the theme of urbanization and health—challenging us all to do more to save lives and expand the reach of health care at the first period in history when more of the world’s population lives in cities than rural areas.
The public health challenges faced by the nearly 1 billion members of the world’s urban poor importantly differ from those faced by the poor in the countryside. While poverty-stricken people everywhere struggle with child and infant mortality, mothers who perish in childbirth, and infectious and chronic diseases, the slums of the world’s cities present unique challenges: cities are usually home to more hospitals and physicians; yet urban communities often endure worse air and water quality, distinct nutritional challenges, and grossly insufficient hygiene and sanitation.
Today, we also reaffirm a basic fact of our interconnected century: a threat to public health anywhere is a threat to public health everywhere. The health and stability of countries around the world directly affect the security and prosperity of all countries, rich or poor. Global health concerns can also not be tackled by any one nation or organization. Only by acting together can we combat threats to global health, reduce the burden on already strained public health systems, lift people out of poverty, and save lives.
Through its Global Health Initiative, the United States is investing $63 billion over six years in an unprecedented strategic effort to tackle health challenges and eradicate disease worldwide. The Initiative promotes a new business model that aims both to improve health conditions and to create effective, efficient, and country-led platforms to deliver essential health care and public health programs over the long term. In particular, the Global Health Initiative will focus on the urgent need to reduce maternal and child mortality. 26,000 children die each day from such largely preventable and treatable illnesses as HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis. More than half a million women die every year from complications during childbirth or pregnancy. Millions of people die needlessly each year from the linked scourges of disease and desperate poverty. Today, let us renew our commitment to their cause. Let us spare no effort to secure their health and dignity.
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