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Five cities recognised for public health achievements

During the inaugural Partnership for Healthy Cities Summit in London on Wednesday, March 15, 2023, five global cities were recognised for their achievements in preventing noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) and injuries.

Partnership for Healthy Cities Summit
The Partnership for Healthy Cities Summit in London

The cities include Montevideo, Uruguay for food policy; Mexico City, Mexico for road safety; Vancouver, Canada for surveillance; Athens, Greece for overdose prevention, and Bengaluru, India for tobacco control.

The Summit brought together mayors and officials from more than 50 major cities in the partnership to discuss urgent public health concerns and best practices that save lives and create healthier cities.

With the majority of the global population now living in urban settings, ensuring the health and wellbeing of residents in our world’s urban centres is crucial. NCDs – including heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and chronic respiratory diseases – and injuries are responsible for over 80% of all deaths globally. Cities are uniquely positioned to transform the fight against NCDs and injuries by implementing policies to significantly reduce exposure to risk factors.

The Summit highlights best practices and proven interventions, which is especially important as public health is at risk of becoming less of a priority three years after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Noncommunicable diseases and injuries pose the number-one threat to global public health. Mayors worldwide are increasingly uniting to confront it, and the Partnership for Healthy Cities will continue to support their urgent and lifesaving work,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies, 108th mayor of New York City, and WHO Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases and Injuries.

“Our network’s first-ever Summit showcased the best of local public health leadership, and given the gains achieved by our inaugural award winners, we expect even more leaders will follow in their footsteps as they create healthier, more vibrant cities,” he added.

“The five cities being recognised today demonstrate that mayors can drive powerful progress to protect the health of their citizens,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “WHO remains committed to working through the Partnership for Healthy Cities to support mayors around the world to build cities that promote and protect health, rather than harm it.” 

Founded in 2017, the Partnership for Healthy Cities is a prestigious global network comprised of 70 cities working together to prevent NCDs and injuries. Mayors in the partnership were invited to join and committed to addressing a pressing public health issue in their city.

Supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies in partnership with the WHO and Vital Strategies, this initiative enables cities around the world to deliver a high-impact policy or programmatic intervention to reduce NCDs and injuries in their communities. Through the Partnership for Healthy Cities, local leaders around the world have enacted policies that are improving the health and safety of millions of people.

During the Summit, five member cities were recognised with a 2023 Partnership for Healthy Cities Award for positively impacting the health of their population and making sustainable and lasting strides toward NCD and injury prevention that can be replicated in other jurisdictions.

The five winning cities, each receiving $150,000 to further their work with the partnership, are:

  • Athens, Greece for increasing access to the opioid overdose reversal agent, naloxone, at community-based organisations and among healthcare professionals. The city also started researching causes of death among people who inject drugs to better understand the impact of the overdose crisis;
  • Bengaluru, India for their efforts in tobacco control, specifically, reducing smoking in public places and improving compliance with existing mandates on public smoking bans;
  • Mexico City, Mexico for improving road safety and safe and active mobility by launching a bike path on a busy road that led to a 275% increase in cyclists; implementing a shared lane for cyclists and buses separate from cars; establishing loading and unloading areas; and optimising design and management of roads close to schools;
  • Montevideo, Uruguay for establishing nutritional standards for the preparation and sale of food in government agency offices and some public universities, for focusing on sodium reduction policies and developing media campaigns and educational materials; and,
  • Vancouver, Canada for making public health data more inclusive and accessible by launching an online public health data tool that tracks population health indicators and working with urban Indigenous communities to better inform data management. 

“I’m delighted to be joining Mayors from around the world today to tackle some of the biggest issues facing our cities. The health of our citizens is a city’s greatest asset so I’m taking bold steps to invest in the health of Londoners, such as restricting junk food advertising across the Transport for London network and expanding the Ultra Low Emission Zone, which will mean five million more Londoners will be able to breathe cleaner air,” said the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.

“These initiatives are not only improving the health of Londoners, but alleviating pressure off our health service and ensuring that future generations can thrive. Improving the health of Londoners will always be at the heart of my vision to build a safer and more prosperous London for everyone,” added Khan.

“Cities are places where health can be produced or compromised,” said José Luis Castro, President and CEO, Vital Strategies. “We applaud the work of urban leaders around the globe in their efforts to create healthier, stronger and more equitable cities. We are eager to continue our work supporting cities with the tools and resources needed to bring proven solutions that prevent noncommunicable diseases and injuries to fruition.”

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