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Acta Paediatr. 2002;91(1):1-8.

Child health in an urbanizing world.

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School of Public Health, Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia, Australia.


The aim of this study is to document and comment on the effects of urbanization on child health, internationally, using published reports and the author's personal experience. Urbanization is having profound effects on the health and well-being of infants and children in industrialized and developing countries. This will affect generations into the future. The changes are not confined to cities and large towns; they rapidly influence transitional societies in remote and rural areas, because globalization is changing infant feeding practices and children's diets and lifestyles. In developing countries, overcrowding and environmental pollution are massive problems made worse by undernutrition and infections, particularly respiratory and diarrhoeal diseases. In developed societies there are many other problems, e.g. injuries, poisonings, violence, drug abuse, exposure to industrial and atmospheric pollutants, including pesticides, sexually transmissible diseases, and "lifestyle", diseases including obesity and cardiovascular disease risk. There is an urgent need for paediatricians, health planners, policy-makers, governments and the community to understand these issues and work towards minimizing their harmful effects on children.


Urbanization has profound effects on child health, globally; these must be recognised so that harmful influences of urbanization can be reduced for the benefit of all children.

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