Urban health: a look out our windows.
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Approximately 80% of Americans live in cities or immediately adjacent communities. Such urban environments are complex amalgams of people of disparate backgrounds, economic status, and expectations, with extraordinary disparities in health status and outcomes between groups just blocks apart. Urban health as a framing paradigm is of recent vintage and offers a perspective on health and disease that integrates clinical medicine and public health and draws on the social and political sciences to seek understanding of the impact of cities on the health of populations and individuals. Ironically, disparate outcomes and increased mortality among poor minority populations in cities are not primarily related to the consequences of the urban epidemics of drugs and violence but rather are due to the increased prevalence and severity of common diseases such as asthma, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and kidney disease. Several factors may be responsible for such disparities, including stress, racism, perceptions of deprivation, economic inequalities, and lack of access to quality health care. It is time for leaders in medical education and health care delivery to focus on the populations that surround their institutions in order to study urban health and meet the challenge of caring for all the residents of our cities.