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Urbanization and Infectious Diseases

Guest edited by Zhi-Jie Zhang, Li-Qun Fang, Michael P. Ward, Ousman Bajinka, Wei Hu, and Xiao-Nong Zhou

A thematic series in Infectious Diseases of Poverty

Urbanization © Thomas Muncke / dpa / picture al

We are experiencing the process of global large-scale urbanization and nearly 70% of the world’s population will live in urban areas by 2050 according to the World Urbanization Prospects issued by the United Nations. Urbanization has the pros and cons like a double-edged sword. Improved health services, better infrastructure and more employment opportunities benefit people a lot, but the overcrowding, environmental pollution, dietary changes and traffic jam may cause health problems.

Non-communicable diseases have attracted researcher’ concern due to its increasing importance during the process of urbanization (e.g., cardiovascular disease, diabetes, mental health, hypertension, obesity), but the communicable diseases seem to be neglected. The ongoing global pandemic caused by COVID-19 warns us again about the potential threats from infectious diseases, the wide connectivity, heightened mobilities and potential zoonotic risks from rapid urbanization became immediately apparent for human health. For low-income countries, infectious diseases still have a profound impact since the leading morbidity and mortality are still infectious diseases and many of those low-income countries will have a major growth among urban population in the future. Urbanization can result in an amount of changes such as the environment, climate, biodiversity, wildlife habitat, social and spatial aspect, human behavior and population movement and land-use, which will re-shape the (re)emergence and trajectory of infectious diseases, both human diseases and zoonotic diseases contributing to the occasionally cross species spillovers from wildlife populations to humans. 

As a complex dynamic process, urbanization is associated with human, domestic poultry, wild birds, environment and even expanded interfaces of contacts among them, which may all result in increased vulnerability to infectious disease. Besides, due to different urbanization process, social class and educational level, the influence of urbanization on infectious diseases will be very heterogeneous and the local diseases and health challenges can greatly differ. Hence, a multi-disciplinary and multi-sectoral approach including epidemiology, geography, sociology, ecology, zoology, veterinary science, statistics and others is needed to better illuminate the relationship between urbanization and infectious diseases. 

In order to better understand the impact of urbanization on infectious diseases and provide rational policy suggestions on improving human health, the journal of Infectious Diseases of Poverty is launching a new Thematic Series entitled Urbanization and infectious diseases. This series will focus on better evidence of impacts of the urbanization process on various infectious diseases, included but not limited to vector-borne infectious diseases, water-borne diseases, food-borne diseases, natural focus disease or endemic disease, respiratory diseases, zoonotic diseases and emerging infectious diseases. 

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    Authors: Hongyan Ren, Weili Lu, Xueqiu Li and Hongcheng Shen
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