What is a healthy city?

A healthy city is defined by a process, not an outcome.

  • A healthy city is not one that has achieved a particular health status.
  • It is conscious of health and striving to improve it. Thus any city can be a healthy city, regardless of its current health status.
  • The requirements are: a commitment to health and a process and structure to achieve it.
  • A healthy city is one that continually creates and improves its physical and social environments and expands the community resources that enable people to mutually support each other in performing all the functions of life and developing to their maximum potential.
  • WHO/Europe recommends a basic model for a healthy city.

Healthy Cities approach

The approach seeks to put health high on the political and social agenda of cities and to build a strong movement for public health at the local level. It strongly emphasizes equity, participatory governance and solidarity, intersectoral collaboration and action to address the determinants of health.

Successful implementation of this approach requires innovative action addressing all aspects of health and living conditions, and extensive networking between cities across Europe and beyond. This entails:

  • explicit political commitment;
  • leadership;
  • institutional change; and
  • intersectoral partnerships.

The Healthy Cities approach recognizes the determinants of health and the need to work in collaboration across public, private, voluntary and community sector organizations. This way of working and thinking includes involving local people in decision-making, requires political commitment and organizational and community development, and recognizes the process to be as important as the outcomes.

The concept of Healthy Cities was inspired and supported by the WHO European Health for All strategy and the Health21 targets.