A Commitment to Healthier Living, 50 Cities and Counting

With the majority of the world’s population now living in cities, mayors are the elected officials most directly responsible for people’s health and well-being. And they have real power to change lives for the better.

That’s why, in Mike Bloomberg’s capacity as the World Health Organization Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases, we launched the Partnership for Healthy Cities with Bloomberg Philanthropies, the World Health Organization, and Vital Strategies. We’re connecting mayors of cities around the world who are committed to confronting noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) and injuries by implementing measures proven to reduce them.

We’ve been amazed by the enthusiasm and commitment of cities to be leaders in tackling NCDs and injuries. When we launched this initiative, we had 40 cities on board. Less than two months later, we’ve reached our goal of 50 cities worldwide — from Addis Ababa to Quito — committed to working together to reduce deaths from NCDs and injuries.

Most people don’t know what the term “noncommunicable diseases” refers to or how it relates to them. This is the first thing we want to change. We need to take bold steps to shine a light on these threats and help individuals live healthier, longer lives. Worldwide, NCDs and injuries — like heart disease and stroke, cancer, and diabetes, as well as preventable causes of injury such as road traffic crashes — kill 44 million people each year, and they are responsible for trillions of dollars in economic losses and health costs.

And they affect everyone — high, low, and middle-income cities and countries all over the world. Our partnership includes cities from every continent, with different cultures and lifestyles.

The prevalence of NCDs and injuries is devastating. But since they touch everyone, everywhere, it also means we have a pool of global cities with strong leadership and ingenuity to offer creative ideas about how to implement solutions that we know work.

Over the next year and a half, each of these 50 cities will adopt at least 1 of 10 evidence-based policy interventions to fight NCDs and injuries in these areas: tobacco control, nutrition policy, epidemiology, road safety, and the environment. Each city will pursue an action plan based in its area of focus: for example, improving road safety by getting more motorcyclists to wear helmets. We’re currently in phase two — helping the cities narrow down their interventions before they determine their action plans.

These action plans will focus on creating, implementing and/or enforcing policies, regulations or legislation that bolster the intervention each city has chosen, with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies’ seed grants. So what does this look like in practice?

Uganda has national legislation in place banning smoking in public places. The city of Kampala wants to implement this legislation at the local level. As a part of the Partnership for Healthy Cities, Kampala will work with Bloomberg Philanthropies and its partners to enforce citywide smoke-free regulations. This will include a media campaign to inform Kampala’s citizens of the purpose of the smoking ban and alert citizens to the dangers of second-hand smoke.

The goal of the Partnership is not to reinvent the wheel, but to empower as many leaders as possible to pursue policies we already know will save lives. We’re here to support each city as it applies data-driven solutions to reduce deaths from NCDs and injuries in whatever way is most impactful in that city’s unique environment. We’ve done it before and we want to share our knowledge and experience to help cities around the world do the same.

The Partnership for Healthy Cities is thriving with our 50 cities in planning stages, but we want the project to go far beyond 50. We want mayors all over the world to look at Boston and Bandung and see that they too can create healthier, stronger cities, less burdened physically and economically by NCDs and injuries.

As we push ahead along the path to healthier cities, we invite more mayors to collaborate with us to reduce the toll of NCDs and injuries, and in doing so, model leadership that the rest of the world becomes compelled to follow.