Kobe, Japan (BBN)– A new United Nations report shows for the first time how poor health is linked to poverty in cities and calls on policymakers to identify those that need the most help and target measures to improve their well-being.

The report, entitled “Hidden Cities: unmasking and overcoming health inequities in urban settings,” was launched on Wednesday in Kobe, Japan, where leaders from governments, academia, media and non-governmental organizations have been meeting for the past three days to examine how to improve the health of city dwellers.

Published by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Human Settlements Program (UN-HABITAT), the report is based on a new analysis that looks beyond city averages or beyond the usual information from cities and towns to identify hidden pockets of ill-health and social deprivation.

The report reveals inequities by looking at subgroups of city dwellers according to their socioeconomic status, neighborhood or other population characteristics.

Unless urgent action is taken to address urban health inequities, countries will not achieve the health-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the set of anti-poverty targets world leaders have pledged to achieve by 2015, including slashing maternal and child mortality and improving access to clean water and sanitation.

With more than half of the world’s population now living in urban areas, success in reaching MDG targets will depend very much on achievements among urban populations, the agencies pointed out.

Among the report’s findings is that the poorest urban children are twice as likely as the richest to die before the age of five. Also, access to skilled birth attendance in urban areas of 44 low-and middle-income countries varies from a low of 40 per cent to a high of 100 per cent.

While access to piped water has improved globally over the last two decades, substantial inequities persist between the richest and the poorest urban residents in Africa, the America and Asia, according to the report.

BBN/SSR/AD-18Nov10-2:30 pm (BST)