New Book Examines Links Between Urban Environments and Women’s Health

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Media Contact:Julie McWilliams | juliemcw@upenn.edu | 215-898-1422September 15, 2011

PHILADELPHIA – Women’s Health and the World’s Cities (Penn Press 2011), an exploration of the relationships between urban environments and women’s health worldwide, was released this month by the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Nursing and Penn Institute for Urban Research.

With a focus on a topic that is expected to grow in importance in coming decades, Women’s Health and the World’s Cities is a collection of 14 studies by scholars and practitioners in the fields of urban planning, global studies and public health.  Some articles examine the relationships between women’s health and city planning, while others consider the specific needs of sub-populations of urban women and offer on-the-ground examples of projects and policies that improve women’s health around the world.

More than half of the world’s population, approximately 3.5 billion, live in cities, and as that figure is expected to increase to almost 5 billion by 2030, most of this increase in urban population will take place in emerging countries where cities face tremendous challenges in providing opportunities and a decent living environment for women. As a result the effect of urbanization on women’s health is one of the century’s most pressing global public health questions.

Urbanization affects women and men in fundamentally different ways. Women and men play different roles, have unique needs and concerns, frequent different public spaces and face different stresses and health challenges. And, with more limited access to resources, women often suffer disproportionately from health risks.  Gender inequities, and a lack of awareness of gender issues by urban developers and policy makers, further compromise the health of girls and women.  It is fundamental to the progress and sustainability of cities to advance women’s health. 

 “Women are the connective tissue of families, communities and schools, playing critical roles as mothers, caregivers, voters, decision-makers and leaders, and guiding the health of their families,” said Afaf Ibrahim Meleis, dean of Penn’s School of Nursing. “When necessary infrastructure and resources are not in place, it undermines women’s abilities to fulfill these roles. In short, healthy women create healthier and more productive families, communities and societies.”

This collection of essays is edited by Meleis, Eugenie L. Birch and Susan Wachter. The volume belongs to Penn IUR’s City in the 21st Century series and can be ordered from Penn Press www.upenn.edu/pennpress or by calling 1-800-537-5487.  For an audio podcast of Meleis and Wachter discussing why gender matters in public health and urban planning, visit www.upenn.edu/pennpress/podcast/. A video of Meleis discussing the book can be found at www.youtube.com/watch?v=J16M-QUd01k.

 About the editors: Afaf Ibrahim Meleis is a professor and the Margaret Bond Simon Dean of Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, professor of nursing and sociology, and director of the school’s WHO Collaborating Center for Nursing and Midwifery Leadership.  Eugenie L. Birch is Lawrence C. Nussdorf Professor of Urban Research; chair of the Graduate Group of City and Regional Planning, University of Pennsylvania School of Design; co-director, Penn Institute for Urban Research; and series co-editor, City in the Twenty-First Century, University of Pennsylvania Press.  Susan Wachter is the Richard B. Worley Professor of Financial Management and professor of real estate and finance at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania; professor of city and regional planning at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Design; co-director of the Penn Institute for Urban Research; and series co-editor, City in the Twenty-First Century, University of Pennsylvania Press.

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