Healthy Cities and Communities

The Healthy Cities project is a World Health Organization (WHO) movement, established in 1986. It involves Local Authorities focusing on improving societal health and wellbeing through political commitment, working in partnership with local stakeholders and supporting innovative projects.

The WHO European Healthy Cities projects’ main goal is to place health high on Local Authorities’ social, economic and political agendas. Local Authorities have the power to protect and promote their citizens’ health and wellbeing. Health in this context includes economic and urban design and development, and regeneration.

What is a Healthy City or County?

A healthy city or county aims to:

  • improve health and wellbeing by creating and continually improving its physical and social environments, and
  • develop community resources that enable people to support each other and achieve their potential.

The National Healthy Cities and Counties of Ireland Network

The network aims to:

  • promote lifelong health and wellbeing,
  • provide a means where local issues can influence national policy, and
  • provide a voice for Ireland in the WHO Network of European National Healthy Cities Networks.

What is the Healthy Cities and Counties approach to health and wellbeing?

Many factors impact our health – where we live, our environment, our genetics, our income and education level, our relationship with friends and family. These factors (‘determinants of health’) are often outside the direct influence of health and social services. The Healthy Cities and Counties initiative includes involving local people in decision-making, requires political commitment and organisational and community development, and recognises processes to be as important as outcomes.

There are national networks in 20 countries in the WHO European Region, bringing together more than 1,400 cities and towns (Healthy Ireland, 2018).

The Healthy Cities and Counties Network currently has 7 members in Ireland. These include:

Galway City Council

Galway City has been a member of the World Health Organization (WHO) European Healthy Cities Network since 2006.

It aims to:

  • promote a whole system approach to planning for health and wellbeing in Galway City;
  • create new ways for people to interact with each other and their environment to improve health and promote healthy lifestyles;
  • encourage co-operation between departments of key city sectors and promote community participation;
  • raise awareness at local level of issues affecting health and wellbeing; and
  • move health high on the political agenda and contribute to the development of healthy city policies.

Galway City Healthy Cities priority goals and themes for 2015–2018

Galway City aims to achieve two main goals for the period 2015-2018:
1. To improve health for all and reduce health inequality
2. To improve leadership and health management Galway Healthy Cities also works according to core themes identified by the WHO for population health and wellbeing.

These themes are:
1. Empowering people at all stages and in all situations of life – for example, in early life, later life, in vulnerable situations.
2. Tackling public health priorities – for example, physical activity, nutrition and obesity, alcohol, tobacco and mental wellbeing.
3. Strengthening people-centred health systems – for example, health and social services, other city services and public health services.
4. Creating strong communities and supportive environments – for example, healthy urban planning and design, healthy transport systems (Galway Healthy Cities Project, 2018).

Examples of initiatives in Galway city as part of the Healthy Cities programme can be found here, and include:

  • A bikeshare scheme similar to Dublinbikes on the campus of National University of Ireland, Galway
  • Promoting safety measures for active travel e.g. provision of over 200 lights to people who are out walking, running or cycling
  • Extension of bus routes to Galway University Hospitals and provision of free transport for staff.
  • Free mini health checks for staff and visitors of Galway University Hospitals

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