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Vital Stories

31 Cities Join Inaugural Partnership for Healthy Cities COVID-19 Webinar

With COVID-19 spreading rapidly around the globe, cities are at the forefront of the response to this unprecedented public health crisis. The Partnership for Healthy Cities is building on existing relationships with city leaders to support their COVID-19 response with evidence-based strategies.

We kicked things off with the first Partnership for Healthy Cities COVID-19 Response Webinar last week. More than 65 leaders and technical staff from 31 cities convened online to review the fundamentals of epidemic preparedness and response, receive a COVID science briefing, and find out about the technical assistance available to cities in the Partnership.

Amanda McClelland, Senior Vice President for the Prevent Epidemics program at Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of Vital Strategies, informed participants about the latest science behind the COVID-19 pandemic and provided an overview of the fundamentals of epidemic preparedness and response. She emphasized the importance of public health social measures such as physical distancing, which can play a critical role in reducing community transmission in urban areas. 

“Cities are really the epicenter of this outbreak. This will be an urban disease driven by population density and population movement.”

Amanda McClelland, Senior Vice President,
Prevent Epidemics, Resolve to Save Lives

Daniel Kass and Adam Karpati, Vital Strategies’ Senior Vice Presidents for Environmental Health and Public Health Programs, respectively, reviewed priority issues for municipal leaders and planners and outlined specific measures the Partnership will take to help cities address those issues. With most of the world now in response mode, they called on cities in the network to prepare for social disruption, maintain essential services and protect vulnerable populations. 

Support for the 70 cities in the Partnership for Healthy Cities spans four principal areas of technical assistance. 

  1. Assisting cities in selecting and implementing public health social measures and community mitigation strategies, such as physical distancing, travel restrictions, and the isolation of sick people and quarantine of their contacts, as well as hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette and environmental cleanliness. 
  2. Legal and policy guidance such as evaluating local legal authority and constraints, identifying gaps and provisions in existing legal frameworks, and/or developing legal instruments to support the COVID-19 response. 
  3. Disease surveillance and epidemiologic analysis to help cities monitor the local outbreak as well as the social and economic impact, use data to guide and adapt responses in real time, track COVID-19 impact on population health, and trace health care utilization. 
  4. Communication support can be used by cities to develop public information campaigns, activate risk communication plans, and counter misinformation.

“Cities are often the first to learn of a
public health emergency, and the first to respond.”

Daniel Kass, Senior Vice President,
Environmental Health, Vital Strategies

Last week’s online event was the first of a regular calendar of topic-specific webinars, to be available in English, Spanish and French. Other virtual convenings will involve city-to-city exchanges of experiences and response strategies. A new mini-grant program will begin in late April, to support cities in the network in one of the four identified technical areas. This will be paired with practical technical materials tailored for the urban context on topics such as ensuring food security during the pandemic, establishing household preparedness and a checklist on priority considerations and actions. 

Because viruses know no borders, we must work together in global solidarity to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The relationships forged through the Partnership for Healthy Cities since its inception in 2017 are proving more valuable than ever, as cities and urban health practitioners worldwide collaborate and adapt critical lessons learned.

About the Partnership for Healthy Cities:

The Partnership for Healthy Cities is a prestigious global network of cities committed to saving lives by preventing noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) and injuries. Supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies in partnership with WHO, as well as Vital Strategies, this initiative enables cities around the world to deliver a high-impact policy or programmatic intervention to reduce NCDs and injuries in their communities. For more information, visit:

The Partnership for Healthy Cities COVID-19 Response forms a component of the $40 million Bloomberg Philanthropies Coronavirus Global Response Initiative.