From local to global: improved urban health through stronger communication and leadership


Implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals at the city level was part of the agenda during a Healthy Cities training course held in Turku, Finland, on 19–21 September 2016.

Healthy Cities, the WHO network promoting urban health, piloted a new training course for its coordinators in Turku, Finland, on 19–21 September 2016. Participants from across the WHO European Region joined the course, sharing knowledge and experiences in the fields of communication and leadership.

Coordinators discussed cross-city collaborative projects and campaigns; integrating the Sustainable Development Goals and Health 2020 into local plans and action; and strengthening leadership for public health.

“This course is important to learn from the successes of Healthy Cities over the past 28 years, and to build on this work, ensuring that the network continues to lead innovation in urban health in the WHO European Region,” said WHO Regional Focal Point for the European Healthy Cities Network, Monika Kosinska.

The network was established in 1988; it is now in Phase VI and continues to grow in both numbers and reach. The focus in this phase is to support cities in strengthening their efforts to bring key stakeholders together to harness leadership, innovation and governance for equity, health and well-being. The training course was therefore tailored to build capacity in these areas, with interactive sessions delivered by expert trainers.

Stronger links between cities

“This course is strengthening the ties between the cities and has pushed us to think strategically about enhancing our communication efforts and building our leadership skills. Coordinators are taking back not only new skills but also inspiration and enthusiasm for future innovation and networking,” said Joan Devlin, Coordinator of Belfast Healthy City and Head of the Healthy Cities Secretariat.

An address by Taru Koivisto, Director of the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, highlighted the importance of the WHO Healthy Cities Network for urban health. The Director underscored how the topics covered in the training course were crucial to building the network and to implementing the Sustainable Development Goals at the city level.

Held in the beautiful Healthy City of Turku, participants heard from the city’s leaders about Turku’s efforts to promote health. Site visits also ensured first-hand experience of some of the initiatives covered.

Upcoming events for the network

Following on from this course, Healthy Cities coordinators will meet again in March 2017 for the Annual Conference in Pécs, Hungary. This is the first of several important upcoming events for the network, including the Healthy Cities’ Mayors Summit in November 2017 and the International Conference and 30-year celebration of Healthy Cities in June 2018, which will mark the launch of the next phase of the network.

For more information on the course activities, pictures and comments, follow the Healthy Cities twitter handle on @WHO_Europe_HCN.