Health promotion

Healthy Cities


“A healthy city is one that is continually creating and improving those physical and social environments and expanding those community resources which enable people to mutually support each other in performing all the functions of life and developing to their maximum potential.”

The background to healthy cities

"Health is created and lived by people within the settings of their everyday life; where they learn, work, play, and love." - The Ottawa Charter, 1986.

This statement is at the heart of the Healthy Settings approach, which has its roots in the WHO Health for All strategy and, more specifically, the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion. The goal is to maximize disease prevention via a "whole system" approach, which integrates multi-disciplinary action across risk factors. The key principles of all Healthy Settings include community participation, partnership, empowerment and equity.

The Healthy Cities programme is the best-known example of a successful Healthy Settings approach. Initiated by WHO in 1986, Healthy Cities have spread rapidly across Europe and other parts of the world.

What is a Healthy City?

A Healthy City aims to:

  • to create a health-supportive environment,
  • to achieve a good quality of life,
  • to provide basic sanitation and hygiene needs,
  • to supply access to health care.

Being a Healthy City depends not on current health infrastructure, rather upon a commitment to improve a city's environs and a willingness to forge the necessary connections in political, economic, and social arenas.

Healthy Cities progress

Shanghai Consensus on Healthy Cities: in 2016, the 9th Global Conference on Health Promotion was held in Shanghai. The international Mayors Forum is one of the unique features of the conference, which recognizes that mayors have a crucial role to play in creating healthy urban environments due to the increasing urbanization of the world’s population. Over 100 mayors committed to advancing health and sustainable urban development by adopting the Shanghai Consensus on Health Cities 2016.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: in 2015, the UN re-emphasized the interconnected nature of global development efforts by setting 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Health promotion efforts, grounded in a health cities approach, can contribute to achieving these goals, including SDG 11: “make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”.