Bloomberg Philanthropies announced a renewed commitment to its flagship initiative to create safer and healthier urban environments with a $31 million investment and shared that six new cities will join the Partnership for Healthy Cities network—Bucharest, Romania; Cairo, Egypt; Córdoba, Argentina; Dublin, Ireland; Greater Manchester, United Kingdom; and Warsaw, Poland.
Launched in 2017 as part of Michael R. Bloomberg’s role as the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs) and Injuries, Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Partnership for Healthy Cities is a collaboration with WHO and Vital Strategies, a global health organization. This network, now comprising 70 cities, supports mayors implementing proven, high-impact policies or programs to reduce NCDs and injuries in their communities. NCDs such as heart disease, diabetes, and respiratory diseases, and injuries, including road traffic crashes, cause an estimated 80% of deaths across the globe each year. In 2020, the Partnership also incorporated support for cities’ COVID-19 response. Today’s announcement brings the total amount of funding by Bloomberg Philanthropies to the Partnership for Healthy Cities to $52 million.
“Through the Partnership for Healthy Cities, local leaders around the world are improving public health and saving lives—and, we’re glad to welcome six new members,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies and WHO Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases and Injuries. “These cities and their mayors are committed to implementing programs and policies that protect the health and safety of millions of people. We look forward to supporting their work and replicating the most effective efforts around the world.”
“The health and well-being of billions of people depend to a large degree on the urban environments in which they live and work,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization. “WHO applauds Bloomberg Philanthropies’ leadership and ongoing support for the Partnership for Healthy Cities, as well as the commitment of all the cities in the partnership. We stand ready to support this important work for the next four years to create cities that nurture health, rather than harming it.”
As part of the Partnership, the Cairo Governate will work on making healthier food options available for people eating in city restaurants. Dublin City Council will expand a pedestrian access and safety audit with the goal of transforming the street and sidewalks to be more friendly to people, not cars. The city of Córdoba will initially focus on COVID-19 vaccine outreach to older adults who have difficulty reading and writing or are hesitant about being vaccinated. Bucharest, Greater Manchester, and Warsaw will announce their health or safety projects soon.
“I am so greatly honored today that Cairo is joining the Partnership for Healthy Cities network,” said Khaled Abdel-Aal, Governor of Cairo. “We look forward to benefitting from Bloomberg Philanthropies’ expertise, as well as other cities’ experiences, to ensure that best international practices are reflected in our efforts.”
“On behalf of our residents, Córdoba is proud to be able to participate in the Partnership for Healthy Cities,” said Martín Llaryora, Intendant of Córdoba, Argentina. “We remain focused on the health of the people of Córdoba. We believe that joining the Partnership will propel our city into a healthier future, helping us make a qualitative leap in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and return to normalcy in the healthiest way.”
“I am delighted that Dublin is now part of the Bloomberg Philanthropies Partnership for Healthy Cities network,” said Alison Gilliland, Lord Mayor of Dublin. “We live in an increasingly connected global world, and networks like these are very important in helping us all learn from one another. Here in Dublin, we have been working hard to promote active mobility by increasing facilities for cyclists and introducing school zones and cycle buses, as well as pedestrianizing some of our city center streets. I look forward to seeing how Dublin can continue to develop further initiatives like these as part of the Partnership for Healthy Cities.”
“As in other parts of the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed existing health and social inequalities, and parts of the North of England have seen a dramatic fall in life expectancy,” said Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester. “Greater Manchester is honored to have been chosen as one of the latest global cities to join the Partnership for Healthy Cities, where we can build on our existing commitments to create healthier, happier communities. Joining a global network like this means we can share ideas and solutions with each other to close the health and wealth gaps between communities.”
In the Partnership for Healthy Cities, local governments select from one of 14 interventions that address tobacco control, road safety, safe and active mobility, healthy food, data surveillance, or overdose prevention. City staff is provided technical assistance, communications support, grants of up to $100,000, workshops, and access to in-person and virtual peer-to-peer exchanges that support collaboration and sharing of lessons learned about areas of urban health and safety.
Important strides by partner cities toward their health and safety goals include the Municipality of Lima, Peru, passing a local ordinance promoting healthy food environments in schools and restaurants through such measures as restrictions on junk food sales and marketing. Both Melbourne, Australia, and Bandung, Indonesia, have adopted new smoke-free laws which will protect the health of countless urban residents by prohibiting smoking in most public spaces.
“Cities have long served as drivers of public health, a distinction which holds even more important as urban areas stand to absorb up to 68% of the world’s population by 2050,” said José Luis Castro, President, and CEO of Vital Strategies. “Although the heavy toll of NCDs and injuries remains a challenge, we celebrate the remarkable progress made by cities in the Partnership. Our global network is leading the way to make big, systemic changes to improve the health and safety of urban residents around the world.”
During the current pandemic, the Partnership pivoted to provide resources to network cities for their COVID-19 responses. This included a webinar series, led by Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative, that connected mayors worldwide and provided them with access to the latest COVID-19 information and the perspectives of leading experts, and an online response center with more than 400 resources and tools. Fifty-two cities in the network benefitted from additional grant funding to address their COVID-19 response and vaccination needs—including outreach on how to best educate high-risk populations on the importance of the vaccine.
The pandemic accelerated action on some cities’ existing Partnership programs. For example, several member cities in Latin America focused on expanding bicycling infrastructure as the COVID-19 pandemic created a need for safer transportation alternatives.