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Special Session of the General Assembly to Review and Appraise
the Implementation of Agenda 21

New York, 23-27 June 1997


Healthy Cities

Location Global
Responsible organization World Health Organization (WHO)
Description Municipalities and cities improve health and quality of life by improving living conditions (a term that includes the physical environment and socio-economic conditions) using participatory approaches. A partnership model of municipal service provision is promoted with services provided through the coordinated efforts of service users, local authorities and their affiliated service departments, private investors, local businesses, trade unions, religious groups, community organizations, central and provincial governments, and even international development and financial institutions.

Participants in Healthy Cities projects recognize that coordination and management of local and municipal planning engages and balances the interests of "stakeholders" and may best carried out in a more decentralised manner at the local level, with policy support systems. The role of the local authorities is not only in investment, planning and management, but also in encouraging and supporting the initiatives of local communities. The projects create a shared community vision; identify and prioritize key issues that affect health and quality of life; raise awareness and facilitate community-based analysis of local issues; develop action plans, drawing on the experiences and innovations of diverse local groups and mobilize community-wide resources to meet service needs and increase public support for municipal programmes.

Issues addressed Health; urban management; community participation.
Objectives The development and promotion, in all regions, of a comprehensive Healthy Cities programme that addresses the health needs and environmental conditions in the cities. To promote and support Healthy Cities activities in individual cities in collaboration with local partners and authorities, with a view to city-level capacity building. To establish and/or strengthen regionally constituted and operated networks of Healthy Cities.
Results achieved Over 1000 cities around the work have engaged in Healthy City projects, and many case studies already show improved health and environment conditions. The number of participating cities continues to increase. The Healthy Cities approach has been studied by local government organizations (such as IULA, UTO, CITYNET etc.) and the model is widely accepted. Close collaboration with other UN and other development agencies has been maintained.

The focus of Healthy Cities on poverty alleviation is widely respected. In a Healthy City project, the focus on health is a means to ensure that human well-being is at the centre of local development efforts. Poor people are the focus of attention because priority health issues are concentrated in low-income settlements. This "poverty focus" of Healthy Cities was recognized at HABITAT II (Istanbul 1996).

Lessons learned Community participation is essential to develop a common "vision" of the future direction of the city, and to understand its current (and past) strengths and qualities.
Financing Mainly from the cities themselves, some of whom have raised external funds for the project. In a number of instances, WHO has contributed program funds/resources or raised extra-budgetary funds.
Contact Dr. Greg Goldstein
World Health Organization
Geneva, Switzerland

Mr. Steven Tamplin
Manila, Philippines

Mr. K. Khosh-Chasm
Alexandria, Egypt

Dr. Agis Tsouros
Copenhagen, Denmark

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Last updated 1 November 1997