Healthy Cities provides a setting for innovative and creative solutions to public health issues. The content, organisational features and ways of working of each five-year phase of the WHO European Healthy Cities Network have been shaped by new WHO strategies.
In 2011 Cork City Development Board, a partnership between the local authority and local state agencies, committed to the process of Cork becoming a Healthy City, and endorsed the development of a City Profile for Cork, with the aim of applying for WHO Healthy City status in 2012. A Cork Healthy City Forum was established, based on a strong partnership between the community sector, Cork City Council, the Health Service Executive, and University College Cork. The Health Promotion Department of the HSE appointed a Co-ordinator to oversee the development of the City Health Profile on behalf of the Forum in line with the core themes of Phase V Zagreb Declaration for Healthy Cities in the European Region. Cork city was designated a Healthy City in January 2012.
Approximately 70% of the European population live in urban settings. City living can affect health through the physical and built environment, the social environment and access to services and support. The quality of housing, neighbourhood design, density of development and mix of land uses, access to green spaces and facilities, recreational areas, cycle lanes, air quality, noise and exposure to toxic substances have been shown to affect the health and well being of the population in many different ways. Some circumstances of urban life, especially segregation and poverty, contribute to and reinforce discrepancies by imposing disproportionate exposure to health-adverse and socially undesirable patterns of response to economic and social deprivation.
Cities also significantly influence people’s health and well-being through various policies and interventions, including those addressing social exclusion and support; healthy and active living (such as cycling lanes and smoke-free public areas); safety and environmental issues for children and older people; working conditions; preparedness to deal with the consequences of climate change; exposure to hazards and nuisances; healthy urban planning and design (neighbourhood planning, removal of architectural barriers, accessibility and proximity of services); and participatory and inclusive processes for citizens.
The launch of new Phase VI of the WHO European Healthy Cities Network in June 2014 presents a unique opportunity for Cork to now re-apply and develop an Action Plan from 2014 – 2018. The following two strategic goals of Health 2020 provide the overarching umbrella of Phase VI:
• Improving health for all and reducing health inequalities; and
• Improving leadership and participatory governance for health.
The core themes in Phase VI will be based on a local adaptation of the four priorities for policy action of Health 2020:
• Investing in health through a life-course and empowering people;
• Tackling the European Region’s major health challenges of infectious and non-communicable diseases;
• Strengthening people-centred systems and public health capacity and emergency preparedness and surveillance; and
• Creating resilient communities and supportive environments.
The City Profile will provide the basis for the development of the Cork Healthy Cities Action Plan 2014 – 2018.