Making cities healthy for everyone: European mayors share experiences
Over 300 mayors and municipal health leaders met in St Petersburg, Russian Federation on 14–16 June 2012 for the Annual Business and Technical Conference of the WHO European Healthy Cities Network and Network of European National Healthy Cities Networks. At the Conference, participants shared solutions for creating urban environments that nurture health and well-being throughout life.
The European Network comprises almost 100 member cities as well as 30 national healthy city networks. Over 60 case studies were presented, many of which can be adapted elsewhere.
Shaping healthier neighbourhoods for children
Belfast, United Kingdom
Engaging 8–10-year-old children and finding out their views on the built environment is the aim of the Shaping Healthier Neighbourhoods for Children project, introduced by Leslie Boydell, Associate Medical Director, Belfast Trust. This project gathered children’s views and developed them into a Children’s Charter, to inform policy-making on the built environment, strengthen health and well-being and ensure children’s opinions are heard.
The Charter has been promoted by junior ministers in the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister and the Lord Mayor of Belfast. Thanks to the project, the concept of child-friendly cities has been introduced to Belfast and is now being adopted by a range of organizations and local government across the city.
“No all solit” (Say no to loneliness)
This programme, presented by Furio Honsell, Mayor of Udine, provides support to older people in the city, who represent over 25% of the total population. Over 1000 volunteers from 30 organizations offer a variety of services to meet the specific needs of older people. These services are coordinated by the municipality through a telephone helpline open for four hours each morning. They include monitoring older people’s health conditions and guiding them through the relevant city services, providing transport services and accompanying people to their doctor or health clinics, and building friendships.
Volunteering is an important tool for addressing social exclusion and it provides a vehicle for empowering population groups to regain access to key services. It reinforces a sense of collective responsibility, and strengthens social capital among the most vulnerable in the city.
Total planning approach for healthy urban living
The development of the Kocaeli Gulf bridge project in Yalova, Turkey, provided an opportunity to establish and implement a new strategic plan for the city. Yalova is a green city, surrounded by natural beauty, forests and clean air. Describing the new plan, Ilkay Akinci, from the city’s external relations department, explained that it was essential to maintain these elements in the plan and to incorporate into it the healthy urban planning principles developed through the WHO Healthy Cities project.
The public plan encompasses a new approach to urban transport with pedestrian walkways, transport options for older people and people with disabilities, and a new seashore design with pedestrian areas and new district squares, as well as improving the aesthetic design of the city through façade rehabilitation projects. This total planning approach for healthy urban living was created jointly with universities, and benefits children, young people, adults, older people and vulnerable groups alike.
Intersectoral approach to urban health
Izhevsk, Russian Federation
Since 2007, the concept of health and active living, with a particular focus on improving the health and quality of life of older people, has been central to urban planning in the city of Izhevsk. Irina Tesleva, Deputy Head of the Izhevsk city administration on social policy, described the intersectoral approach the local administration is taking to achieve this.
The city’s department for social support established an interdepartmental group and a long-term programme of public health development: “Health of the city – health of Izhevsk citizens”. Elderly people now participate in the process of making administrative decisions within their areas of interest, and the availability of urban spaces (for city transport, family recreation and physical activity) has improved. As a result, attitudes towards the health of the elderly and their active role in society are changing radically. The concept of health among the elderly has been integrated into the activities of various departments, specialists and people themselves. This programme has led to health improvements, a reduction in loneliness and stronger social inclusion of older people.