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Implications of COVID-19 control measures for diet and physical activity, and lessons for addressing other pandemics facing rapidly urbanising countries.

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Micklesfield, Lisa K 
Wadende, Pamela 
Obonyo, Charles O 


At the time of writing, it is unclear how the COVID-19 pandemic will play out in rapidly urbanising regions of the world. In these regions, the realities of large overcrowded informal settlements, a high burden of infectious and non-communicable diseases, as well as malnutrition and precarity of livelihoods, have raised added concerns about the potential impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in these contexts. COVID-19 infection control measures have been shown to have some effects in slowing down the progress of the pandemic, effectively buying time to prepare the healthcare system. However, there has been less of a focus on the indirect impacts of these measures on health behaviours and the consequent health risks, particularly in the most vulnerable. In this current debate piece, focusing on two of the four risk factors that contribute to >80% of the NCD burden, we consider the possible ways that the restrictions put in place to control the pandemic, have the potential to impact on dietary and physical activity behaviours and their determinants. By considering mitigation responses implemented by governments in several LMIC cities, we identify key lessons that highlight the potential of economic, political, food and built environment sectors, mobilised during the pandemic, to retain health as a priority beyond the context of pandemic response. Such whole-of society approaches are feasible and necessary to support equitable healthy eating and active living required to address other epidemics and to lower the baseline need for healthcare in the long term.



COVID-19, Diet, informal settlements, non-communicable diseases, physical activity, policy, urbanisation, Betacoronavirus, Built Environment, COVID-19, Communicable Disease Control, Coronavirus Infections, Diet, Exercise, Food Supply, Health Behavior, Humans, Pandemics, Pneumonia, Viral, Risk Factors, SARS-CoV-2, Urban Population, Urbanization

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Global Health Action

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Co-Action Publishing
Medical Research Council (MC_UU_12015/1)
Department of Health (via National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)) (16/137/34)
MRC (MC_UU_00006/1)