Healthy Cities meet in Kuopio Finland

Over 300 mayors, city officials and other municipal health leaders from 34 countries gathered in Kuopio Finland in June for the 26th annual WHO Healthy Cities Network business meeting. At the centre of the agenda, focused on "Political choices for city health", was a unique opportunity to hear and see how Finnish approaches work at all levels.

In dedicated plenary and workshop sessions, national government policy and data units, local political, NGO and implementation agency leaders described and analyzed how they work together to develop complementary policies with education, social and health services, housing, transport, urban planning, waste management, and other sectors; how they monitor and evaluate progress; and how they address practical challenges of management and cooperation. Site visits allowed participants to see first hand how urban designers are working with architects, artists, musicians, universities, social and technological innovators and health planners in refurbishing housing, hospitals and community resources to make Kuopio a healthier and happier city.

City politicians and public health coordinators from across the WHO European region shared their city health diplomacy experiences including: twinning arrangements, multi-city cooperative projects as well as national and international advocacy activities. Cities called for the development of a Healthy City marketplace where cities can post opportunities and find partners for multi-city initiatives.

A new healthy city tourism initiative was introduced which aims to define the added-value Healthy Cities can bring to the development of more equitable, accessible, environmentally friendly, active, holistic and inclusive approaches to tourism in Europe and beyond. A Solid Facts publication in this area is planned and cities were invited to join a sub-network working group.

Also launched at the meeting was the new Health Promotion International special supplement evaluating the health impact of the 100 cities which participated in Phase V. Participants in Kuopio unanimously called for on-going evaluation throughout Phase VI (2014-2020).

"Kuopio has been a member of the network since 2005. It is a key leader in urban health planning, health related innovations from health-gaming to active living initiatives across the lifecourse" noted Agis Tsouros, Director Division of Policy and Governance for Health and Well-being 
for the WHO Regional Office for Europe. "Knowledge gained from such initiatives is being used to develop the new WHO European Regional Physical Activity Strategy 2016-2025 which the Regional Committee will consider this year."