Women's Health and the World's Cities

Women's Health and the World's Cities

Women's Health and the World's Cities

Women's Health and the World's Cities


Growing urbanization affects women and men in fundamentally different ways, but the relationship between gender and city environments has been ignored or misunderstood. Women and men play different roles, frequent different public areas, and face different health risks. Women suffer disproportionately from disease, injury, and violence because their access to resources is often more limited than that of their male counterparts. Yet, when women are healthy and safe, so are their families and communities. Urban policy makers and public health professionals need to understand how conditions in densely populated places can help or harm the well-being of women in order to serve this large segment of humanity.

Women's Health and the World's Cities illuminates the intersection of gender, health, and urban environments. This collection of essays examines the impact of urban living on the physical and psychological states of women and girls in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the United States. Urban planners, scholars, medical practitioners, and activists present original research and compelling ideas. They consider the specific needs of subpopulations of urban women and evaluate strategies for designing spaces, services, and infrastructure in ways that promote women's health. Women's Health and the World's Cities provides urban planners and public health care providers with on-the-ground examples of projects and policies that have changed women's lives for the better.


Amy Gutmann

The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain until it is secured
for all of us and incorporated into our common life.

—Jane Addams

Long before the University of Pennsylvania hosted the 18th Congress of the International Council on Women’s Health Issues, American suffragist Jane Addams was skillfully integrating her argument for extending voting rights to women with trenchant observations about health, the environment, and nutrition. Writing in 1915, she advocated for women’s active involvement in the public sphere, emphasizing that individual action alone could not provide access to transportation, housing, and unpolluted air and water, or ensure the availability of safe and nutritious food.

Nearly a century later, we continue to draw connections between women’s opportunities and the places in which they live. Addams would certainly marvel at our progress, but she also would remind us that if we do not continue to broaden the scope of our efforts “we shall fail to go forward, thinking complacently that we have ‘arrived’ when in reality we have not yet started.” Securing voting rights was, indeed, a historic policy breakthrough, but women’s journey to control their own destiny is far from being over.

Despite inspiring progress around the world, far too many women and girls continue to suffer abuse and to meet unimaginable fates. They are systematically tortured and raped as a war tactic. They are exploited for profit, forced into marriages as children, and killed for bringing dishonor on their families.

The access of women and girls to education, health care, and employment is grossly unequal to that of their male counterparts, and true gender equality remains a goal for all nations. Since 2006, the three . . .

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