Annual meeting of the WHO European Healthy Cities Network 2009. Theme: striving for health and healthy equity in all local policies

Annual integrated conference of the WHO European Healthy Cities Network and the European national Healthy Cities networks, 18–20 June 2009, Viana do Castelo, Portugal

Striving for health and health equity in all local policies

Viana do Castelo hosted the first annual integrated business and technical conference of the WHO European Healthy Cities Network and of the national Healthy Cities networks in Phase V. The WHO European Network had about 90 cities either members or in the process of becoming members by June 2009. In addition, 30 national Healthy Cities networks in Europe had more than 1400 cities and towns as members.

The conference programme was developed around the following four thematic strands relating to the Phase V goals.

1. Several sessions were devoted to discussing implications for action and expected outcomes for each of the phase V themes:

  • the overarching goal of Phase V, health and health equity in all local policies; and
  • the three core themes: caring and supportive environments, healthy living and healthy urban environment and design.

Position papers and draft action plans on all the themes were circulated to the participating cities and networks before the meeting. There was a special focus on translating the recommendations of the report of the global Commission on Social Determinants of Health into action at the local level.

2. The WHO European Network and national networks had a wide range of well-established mechanisms for collective decision-making, political and technical interaction and engagement, conceptual development and experimentation, learning and experience-sharing as well as action at the local, national and international levels. Further, networking offered excellent opportunities for mentoring, cooperation and public health advocacy across the European Region and beyond.

3. The Healthy Cities movement in its twenty-year history in Europe had accumulated extensive experience in some of the most challenging areas of public health action, including intersectoral cooperation and integrated planning for health and sustainable development. The conference addressed management, capacity, coordination and partnership issues that are crucial for successful outcomes. Teach-in learning sessions focused on managing healthy city projects, advocacy, social marketing and health literacy.

4. Healthy Cities annual meetings offer the opportunity to promote awareness and stimulate debate on emerging issues with significant implications for public health and local action. Two topics selected for discussion were:

  • the global financial crisis: implications for public health and what city leaders can do; and
  • the contribution of the European Healthy Cities movement to the 2010 World Health Day theme of healthy urbanization.