When cows live closely together with humans, like in Ahmedabad, India.
Photo: Timo Falkenberg
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The increasing interactions between rural and urban areas have induced health benefits in rural areas, slowly shrinking the rural-urban health gap. However, this higher level of interaction, is giving rise to various health risks threatening health advances achieved over the previous decades. Our author describes the particular hazard potentials arising at the rural-urban interface and explains why we can only counter them with an integrated approach.

Although rural development has achieved great progress over the past decades, rural-urban health disparities still persist. Key health indicators, including life expectancy as well as infant, child, and maternal mortality, show worse outcomes among rural compared to urban populations. The 2017 World Health Statistics report of the World Health Organization (WHO) highlights that rural populations have lower access to essential infrastructures such as improved sanitation and drinking water, electricity and communication technologies, and lower access to healthcare services. Whilst the rural-urban gap has narrowed in terms of improved sanitation and drinking water over the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) era, 14 per cent of the rural population are still relying on unimproved water sources, compared to three per cent among the urban population. Similarly, access to essential healthcare services, including antenatal care, reproductive health services, immunisation services as well as diagnosis and treatment of infectious diseases, remains lower among rural communities. Whilst a multitude of economic factors underlie the health disparities between rural and urban communities (income, consumption, wealth, etc.), low access to essential infrastructures and healthcare services are key determinants of these differences.

Although rural-urban health disparities persist, the dichotomy between rural and urban as distinct locations with distinct characteristics has been blurred over the last few decades.

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