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  • Writer's pictureSarah Beeching

Healthy Cities, Healthy People: A multi-sector initiative for global health

Tuesday 23 November 2021 saw the launch of Healthy Cities, Healthy People an initiative aimed at highlighting the role of city leaders in the prevention of mosquito borne disease, neglected tropical diseases and tuberculosis.

We live in an increasing urbanising world. In 2021, more than half the human population reside in cities. By 2050, that percentage is projected to rise from 55% to 68%. Cities and urban areas are key economic drivers of national economies, but have also been hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic and are suffering the greatest economic and social consequences. For billions of people living in urban centres in developing countries, the pandemic showed that taking the simplest precautions has often been very difficult. Social distancing and working from home have been thwarted by overcrowding, lack of secure employment, and the absence of social safety nets. The pandemic highlighted the vulnerability of urban communities, particularly those lacking adequate sanitation, water, housing, waste management, planning and transport infrastructure. Lack of access to basic services has a significant impact on city resilience to Covid and other communicable diseases.

Building on our work on urban malaria and One Health, Oshun worked with city mayors in partnership with UN Habitat, Commonwealth Local Government Forum, RBM Partnership to End Malaria, Uniting to Combat NTDs and other partners to negotiate Healthy Cities, Healthy People: Common Position and Commitment to Action. A broad range of partners joined the initiative including the World Health Organization, regional development banks, academic institutions and civil society organisations, bringing together urban leaders with a focus on reducing rates of infectious diseases and NTDs, and highlighting the need to think beyond the health sector.

Dr Tedros Adhanom, Director General of WHO, said, "Building healthier cities is not a job for one sector. It takes a coordinated multisectoral approach led by local governments… WHO joins UN-Habitat in launching the Healthy Cities, Healthy People initiative, which aims to strengthen the role of city leaders in addressing vector-borne and neglected tropical diseases.” He also noted the important global consultation that the WHO are engaged in to identify how to address the increasing challenge of urban malaria more effectively.

Maimunah Sharif, Executive Director of UN Habitat noted that, "When it comes to health challenges, housing, access to clean water, sanitation and waste management are as important as access to a doctor." UN Habitat called for a stronger role for local government in tackling these problems.

Dr Daniel Ngamije, Minister of Health, Rwanda, gave his support for Healthy Cities, Healthy People to be included as part of the Commonwealth Leaders’ meeting in 2022.

However, the real strength and potential power of this initiative came through in the voices of the mayors themselves. To watch their inspiring speeches at our launch event, as well as the words of Dr Tedros, Maimunah, and Dr Ngamije, please follow this link.

Healthy Cities, Healthy People aims to ensure that core local government responsibilities are better connected to national and global health agendas,provide the impetus for a new wave of cooperation and investment to make cities and towns healthy places for all, across the Commonwealth and beyond. Oshun looks forward to working with mayors on the next phase of this important work.


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