Mayors and city leaders will join together in London on March 15, 2023 for the Healthy Cities Summit, where they would discuss strategies to combat the global burden arising from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and the increasing toll on urban health systems caused by injuries.
The UN World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday announced that it will co-host the inaugural Partnership for Healthy Cities Summit.
The Summit will highlight best practices that are helping to save lives and creating healthier, more vibrant cities.
“Human health can either flourish or perish in cities,” said WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Through the Partnership for Healthy Cities, WHO and partners are working with mayors to create programmes and policies that place health at the centre of urban design, such as safe streets that promote active mobility, local sources of fresh and healthy food, and smoke-free spaces.
“These are vital for building cities that foster good health and well-being, by fighting noncommunicable diseases like heart and respiratory diseases, cancer and diabetes.”
PARTNERSHIP FOR HEALTHY CITIES
Founded in 2017, the Partnership for Healthy Cities is a global network of more than 70 major urban areas. Supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies in partnership with the WHO and Vital Strategies, it enables cities worldwide to deliver a high-impact policy or programmatic intervention to prevent NCDs and injuries.
“Noncommunicable diseases and injuries are leading causes of death around the world, but they are preventable, and the Partnership for Healthy Cities is tackling them with the kind of urgency we need more of,” said Michael Bloomberg, WHO Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases and Injuries.
Bloomberg, who is also the Founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies and a three-time Mayor of New York City, added that “city leaders are the first line of defence in protecting public health, and our network’s first-ever summit is an opportunity for even more partners to join the fight, adopt effective interventions, and accelerate our lifesaving work together.”
WHO MANDATE FOR HEALTHY CITIES
Globally, more people live in urban areas than in rural settings. While cities offer many opportunities for employment and access to better services (health, education, social protection) that are necessary for good health and human development, cities can also pose unique health risks.
In urban slums and smaller informal settlements, overcrowding and lack of access to safe water and sanitation contribute to the spread of infectious diseases such as tuberculosis (TB), for example. Rates of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), violence, and mental illness are also often higher because of cities’ social, built and food environments.
Meanwhile, only 12 percent of cities globally reach pollution control targets. With such trends in mind, the World Health Organization (WHO) has identified urbanization as one of the key challenges for public health in the 21st century.1
The importance of managing and planning urbanization in a way that advances, rather than holds back, health and health equity will only grow. By 2050, 70 percent of the world’s people will live in cities. We must strive to ensure that they are living in healthy and livable cities that are: “continually creating and improving those physical and social environments and expanding those community resources which enable people to mutually support each other in performing all the functions of life and developing to their maximum potential.
The unique contributions of the successful WHO Healthy Cities programmes/movement have included a strong value-based commitment to innovations at the cutting edge of social determinants of health and Health in All Policies. Today, thousands of cities worldwide are part of the Healthy Cities Network in all WHO regions. This has become an important platform for achieving health and sustainable development in many parts of the world, as cities are often at the forefront of innovation with mayors and municipalities spearheading efforts to improve the daily conditions of urban life.
A healthy cities approach which catalyses political leadership and participatory governance can be transformational for health and health equity, as well as help mitigate the impacts of environmental degradation, climate change, aging, migration, growing inequalities and social isolation.
Major health inequities persist across the world, with rates of illness and premature death significantly higher amongst the poorest and most excluded groups. This is true across countries, within countries, and most starkly within cities. As a result, groups least able to deal with the costs of illness are also those most likely to endure them.
This is not a matter of chance – the poor and marginalized are more likely to live and work in environments that are harmful to health and have less access to services and amenities. A healthy cities approach can uniquely address this and other injustices. It can advance health and health equity while also advancing other sustainable development goals, the WHO said.