As the world’s population hits today the 7 billion mark, unleashing mixed emotions across the globe, Latin America can consider itself lucky that overcrowding is not that big of a deal in our neck of the woods.
Or is it? Experts point out that while the region’s share of the world’s population is a mere 8% -or 560 million- a great concern is that the vast majority of those people –up to 75%- live in cities, leading to overstressed basic services, such as healthcare. My colleague James Martone of the Broadcast Unit, went to Northern Brazil to film a project about a community that has found innovative ways to provide healthcare for the poor.
The region’s relatively small share of the world population is the result of declining fertility rates which have seen the number of children born in the region drop from a peak of 6 per women in the 60s to just 3 per women in the 2000s.
Such reversal means that the population growth is just 1.3% -same as developed nations such as Canada, at 1.3%, or the United States, at 0.93%. It also means that the region’s population will gray sooner than other regions. But even as the issue for Latin America doesn’t seem to lie in the numbers, it is of great concern that a vast majority of its population lives in citieswith overstretched basic services.
Today, more than 75% of the region’s inhabitants live in cities, some of which are megacities like Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, with over 10 million people each.
One particular concern is health services reaching the increasing number of poor urban dwellers. “Promoting healthy populations, life-long learning, and long productive lives will be essential to minimize the impact aging may have on health and health care, education, employment and pensions,” told me health expert Joana Godihno.
She added that it will also be critical to ensure more human and less expensive alternatives to hospital care, such as home- and community-based care.