Healthy city

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Rush hour in Copenhagen, where 62% of the population commute by bicycle to their work or study places each day

Healthy city is a term used in public health and urban design to stress the impact of policy on human health. It is a municipality that continually improves on a physical and a social level until environmental and pathological conditions are reached establishing an acceptable morbidity rate for the population.[1] Its modern form derives from a World Health Organization (WHO) initiative on Healthy Cities and Villages in 1986, but has a history dating back to the mid 19th century.[2] The term was developed in conjunction with the European Union, but rapidly became international as a way of establishing healthy public policy at the local level through health promotion.[3] It emphasises the multi-dimensionality of health as laid out in WHO's constitution and, more recently, the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion.[4] An alternative term is Healthy Communities, or Municipios saludables in parts of Latin America.


Many jurisdictions which have healthy community programmes and cities can apply to become a WHO-designated "Healthy City". WHO defines the Healthy City as:[5]

"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 in developing to their maximum potential."

Measuring the indices required, establishing standards and determining the impact of each component on health is difficult. In some regions such as Europe, a health impact assessment is a required piece of public policy development.[6][7]

There are many networks of healthy cities, including in Europe[8] and internationally, such as the Alliance for Healthy Cities. A key feature is ensuring that the social determinants of health are taken into consideration in urban design and urban governance. For example, "urbanization and health" was the theme of the 2010 World Health Day.[9] One tool in developing healthy cities is social entrepreneurship.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Caves, R. W. (2004). Encyclopedia of the City. Routledge. p. 336.
  2. ^ Niyi Awofeso. The Healthy Cities approach — reflections on a framework for improving global health. Bull World Health Organ 2003; 81(3).
  3. ^ O'Neill M, Simard P. Choosing indicators to evaluate Healthy Cities projects: a political task? Health Promotion International 2006; 21(2): 145-152.
  4. ^ World Health Organization.Healthy Cities and urban governance. Copenhagen: WHO Europe.
  5. ^ World Health Organization. Health Promotion Glossary 1998.
  6. ^ WHO Europe. Health impact assessment methods and strategies.
  7. ^ Erica Ison. The introduction of health impact assessment in the WHO European Healthy Cities Network. Health Promotion International 2009; 24(Supplement 1):i64-i71.
  8. ^ WHO Europe. WHO European Healthy Cities Network. Archived 2013-05-21 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ World Health Organization.World Health Day 2010. Archived 2010-04-07 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ Evelyne de Leeuw. Healthy Cities: urban social entrepreneurship for health. Health Promotion International 1999; 14(3): 261-270.

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