City health profiles

One of the first steps that cities take in the WHO Healthy Cities project is to develop a comprehensive city health profile, a public health report that describes the health of the city’s population, bringing together key pieces of information on health and its determinants in the city and interpreting and analysing the information.

This profile usually uses health indicators to define the population’s health and presents information on the lifestyles and environmental and social factors in the city that affect health. Of the 45 city health profiles submitted to the WHO European Healthy Cities Network in 2005, 35 used all 500 indicators of inequality. Areas covered by the indicators included measures of health or well-being, disease prevalence, socioeconomic conditions, lifestyle, environmental conditions, service utilization (admission or attendance rates) and other factors influencing health, such as traffic and crime.

The profiles are essential tools for change and are an integral part of local decision-making and strategic planning processes. Tools and guidance have been developed on profiles and indicators, which helps a city to portray its health and its determinants.

City health profiles are not an end in themselves but an important element in the process of improving health and thus moving closer to the reality of a healthy city.