World Health Day 2010 - 1000 cities, 1000 lives

WHO/Vitali Shkaruba

World Health Day 2010 focused on urban health. The campaign “1000 cities, 1000 lives”, taking place on 7–11 April 2010 encouraged cities to open up public spaces to health, and to collect stories of urban health champions who have taken action and significantly benefited health in their cities. Over 175 cities in 31 countries across the WHO European Region joined the campaign.

Why focus on urban health?

In the Region, 70% of the population lives in urban areas. Urban living is associated with many health challenges related to water and other aspects of the environment, violence and injury, noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) and lifestyle, such as tobacco use, unhealthy diets, physical inactivity, harmful use of alcohol and disease outbreaks. These challenges fall more heavily on the urban poor.

Situation in Europe

Over 92% of urban populations live in cities with levels of air pollution (with particulate matter) that exceed the WHO air quality guideline value.

Environmental noise is perceived as the most common stressor in urban areas.

Road traffic crashes kill about 100 children and young people aged under 25 every day, and cause on average 35 non-fatal injuries for every death.

The prevalence of overweight (including obesity) in 11- and 13-year-olds ranges from 5% to more than 25% in some countries.

50% of car journeys are under 5 km, a distance that could be covered in 15–20 minutes by bicycle or 30–50 minutes by brisk walking.

What can be done

Urban planning can promote healthy behaviour and safety through: investing in active transport, designing areas to promote physical activity and passing regulatory controls on tobacco and food safety. Improving urban housing, water and sanitation will go a long way towards mitigating health risks. Building inclusive cities that are accessible and welcoming to people of all ages will benefit all urban residents.

The WHO Healthy Cities programme engages local governments in health development through a process of political commitment, institutional change, capacity building, partnership-based planning and innovative projects. It also supports the WHO European Healthy Cities Network: cities from around Europe that are committed to health and sustainable development.