Last night a friend told me about an event the store she works for was hosting- NYC Juice Fast to Stop Global Warming. The event is a week long and consists of yoga, meditation, and fasting. It sounded nice and I asked her what organization the money from the event (which is quite pricey) was going to. After a bit of research we discovered that no money is being donated. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Rather the group is going to hold the intention of stopping global warming in their meditations.
This got me thinking about World Health Day, which passed this week with little fanfare. Is World Health Day about holding the intention of improving health and meditating on this intention, or is it a call to action?
The theme for this year’s World Health Day was “1,000 Cities, 1,000 Lives,” with the intention of working to create healthier cities. With over half of the world’s population living in cities this goal certainly seems admirable. One third of the urban population live in slums, and there is on question that poorly planned (or unplanned) urban areas leave people vulnerable to poor health. Health disparities in cities are tremendous; there is a 28 year difference in life expectancy among people living in different neighborhoods in Glasgow, U.K. According to the WHO’s website there are two goals- to open up public spaces to health and to collect 1,000 stories of urban health champions.
While the intention is certainly good, what action is associated with this day? Again, according to information provided by the WHO, there will be a report published later in the year as well as a global forum on urbanization and health held in Kobe, Japan. This meeting will “showcase the successes on urbanization and health.” To be blunt, I’m unsure what this means. I guess I’ll just have to see the report later in the year…
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the day is the “Open Streets” program, which encourages cities to close streets to motor traffic, and open them for pedestrians. When NYC did this in the summer of 2008, 150,000 people came out to jog, walk, dance, skateboard, and bike. Does this promote health? Absolutely. However I think the slogan “Stop your engines, warm your hearts” could use some help. The WHO is trying to get 1,000 cities to open their streets between April 7th and the 11th. At my last check, 1392 cities have chosen to participate. It should be noted that very few of those cities are in the U.S.
I’m impressed by the effort to open up streets to the public and amazed by the result; that good intentions turned into positive action. Rather than meditating on urban health, the WHO encouraged people across the globe to act, to dance, run, walk, jog, and bike. Now let’s that report.