Infrastructure and Health
Infrastructure and Health
Infrastructure is designed to bestow benefits onto societies, but if we look at it from a different perspective, this is not always the case; infrastructure can sometimes create public controversy and even endanger human health. This chapter highlights a number of controversies and other issues related to infrastructure and health. A main aim is to stimulate debate on urban complexity, urban development, and infrastructure inequality in order to promote public understanding. Infrastructure such as water and sanitation, roads, power supply, and buildings are critical parts of the vital skeletal framework necessary for the function and operation of societies. At present, moreover, with over half the world’s population (3.4 billion) living in cities, urban infrastructure plays a key role in support of the health and livelihoods of city dwellers (World Health Organization 2010). According to the World Health Organization (1948), “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” We begin with an overview of three particular issues and links between infrastructure and health. The section “Urban Health” highlights how the controversy of urbanization gives rise to significant public health challenges in rapidly expanding informal settlements around the world. “Infrastructure as Threat” provides various infrastructure examples that can pose dangers to communities and in some cases arguably outweigh the benefits of the infrastructure. “Aging Infrastructure and New Hazards” discusses the constant change and evolution of infrastructure forms and functions. As infrastructure ages, some of it is forgotten and can thereby introduce new hazards to human life. After setting out the problems, we further explore the “Reasons Behind the Infrastructure Controversies” in our attempt to understand and learn from the difficulties arising out of these controversies and set the stage for better decision making on infrastructure policy and healthier infrastructure for the future. We explore the issue of “Infrastructure Complexity and Connectivity” and use water systems as an example to highlight the lessons to be learned from previous experience. In emerging countries, rapid “Urban Development” accelerates the infrastructure building process and thereby deepens our reliance on infrastructure.
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