the Health Policy Dialogue (HPD) – a think tank initiative in health sector of Bangladesh has organised its third policy dialogue with health professionals, policy makers, practitioners and representatives from government, NGOs and media at the CIRDAP Auditorium, Dhaka. The HPD was initiated in September 2017 by icddr,b’s ‘Strengthening Health, Applying Research Evidence (SHARE)’ project. The theme of today’s dialogue was ‘Urban Health and Universal Health Coverage in Bangladesh’.

Urbanization is one of the leading global trends of the present century that has a great impact on health. By 2050, over 68% of the world’s population will live in cities. In Bangladesh, it is estimated that if the current rate of urbanisation continues, its urban population will exceed rural population by 2040 and will greatly impact the urban health. The factors influencing urban health are complex and entwined. It involves issues like urban governance; population characteristics; the natural and built environment; economic and social development; services and health emergency management; and food security.

The policy dialogue discussion captured some of the existing challenges in the urban health and universal health coverage in Bangladesh, and attempted to explore practical solutions. This exercise is believed to help developing policy recommendations and influence future health policies and guidelines.

Dr. Mushtuq Husain, Co-ordinator, Co-ordination and Support Center, DGHS, MoHFW, Government of Bangladesh welcomed the participants, while Professor Robaet Ferdous, Department of Mass Communication and Journalism, University of Dhaka, moderated the event.

In the keynote presentation, Dr. Sohana Shafique, Assistant Scientist and Deputy Project Coordinator, Universal Health Coverage Programme at icddr,b and Dr. Md. Khalequzzaman, Assistant Professor, Department of Public Health and Informatics, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) highlighted on the rapid urbanization and related health shocks,  inequalities in urban health, health care seeking behaviour of urban poor and epidemiological transition in urban Bangladesh. They have also discussed the challenges in health system and importance of coordinated efforts between multiple actors working in this field.

In her speech, Ms Doerte Bosse, First Counsellor, European Union, Bangladesh, highlighted the importance of social determinants of health and taking ‘Health in all polices’ approach in addressing urban health issues.

In his closing remark, Professor Dr. TA Chowdhury, Chief Consultant, BIRDEM and the president of HPD highlighted the need for a greater partnership under the stewardship of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) and among Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Co-operatives (MoLGRD&C), other relevant ministries, NGOs and the private sector with defined responsibilities to improve urban health in Bangladesh. He suggested that more focused discussions should be organised periodically with fruitful participation from all walks of life.

Representatives from different stakeholder groups including government, NGOs, development partners, professionals, academicians, journalists, mass media and participated in this event and shared their expectations and suggestions for improving urban health services in Bangladesh.