Intended for healthcare professionals

Healthy dry cities

Increases in water scarcity and urbanisation are two of today’s great global health challenges. Dryness, a longstanding reality in much of the world, is becoming increasingly severe and widespread. It is in these contexts that cities face other challenges related to climate change, public health threats such as covid-19, and gaping inequalities in wealth and health.

To maximise the physical, mental and social wellbeing of all their inhabitants, dry cities must optimise their physical and social environments and community resources.

This collection, commissioned for the 2020 Virtual WISH summit, shows that healthy dry cities are eminently achievable with the right policies, institutions, technologies, and space for innovation.


Protecting health in dry cities: considerations for policy makers
Increasing health and wellbeing in cities that experience water scarcity presents challenges, but can be done, say Howard Frumkin, Maitreyi Bordia Das, and colleagues.

City design for health and resilience in hot and dry climates
Cities in regions including the Middle East can use a variety of approaches to promote wellbeing among the people who live and work there despite dryness and heat, write Maya Negev and colleagues.


Planetary health approaches for dry cities: water quality and heat mitigation
Water sensitive cities show how holistic approaches can counter the health and wellbeing problems associated with urban dryness, write Tony Wong, Nigel Tapper, and Stephen Luby.

Protecting health in dry cities: from evidence to action
Cities in the US and beyond are increasingly claiming heat readiness as the climate crisis escalates, while starting to recognize its disproportionate burden on poorer residents. But are their plans sufficient, and can they implement them fast enough? Mara Kardas-Nelson reports.

Health in dust belt cities and beyond—an essay by Nick Middleton
Desert dust is associated with morbidity and mortality, and distant spread means lessons for mitigating the harms can be found by looking beyond cities in arid regions, writes Nick Middleton.


An agenda for better health in hot and dry settings
As increasing numbers of people risk health impacts related to water scarcity, Carlos Dora and Roberto Bertollini call for an urgent agenda to promote research and action.

Dry cities can’t be healthy without reducing inequalities
Women and other groups carry disproportionate burden of the impacts of water scarcity on health. Policymakers should prioritize actions that minimize inequality and exclusion, while improving water management and health, especially in cities, writes Maitreyi Bordia Das.

Mental health in water scarce cities: an unrecognized climate change pressure point
Water unavailability is one of many linked stressors increasingly likely to affect mental health in some city populations. Azar M Abadi and colleagues consider the evidence and propose steps forward to protect vulnerable residents.

This collection was launched at the World Innovation Summit for Health, 15-19 November 2020. Funding for the articles, including open access fees, was provided by the World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH), which is an initiative of the Qatar Foundation. The BMJ commissioned, peer reviewed, edited, and made the decision to publish these articles. The guest editors received no payment for their contributions.

Howard Frumkin and Maitreyi Bordia Das guest edited this collection, with the support of advisory panel members Roberto Bertollini, Carlos Dora, Maya Negev and Briony C Rogers. Richard Hurley and Kamran Abbasi were the lead editors for The BMJ.

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