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Cities Driving Progress Against Leading Global Killer

From bike lanes in Fortaleza to smoking bans in Kuala Lumpur, many cities are leading where nations fall short in the fight against noncommunicable disease.

(New York, USA) – Cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs) have become the world’s leading killer, taking 41 million lives a year—71% of all global deaths. Driven largely by social and environmental factors, most of these deaths are preventable, if only governments act to implement strong protections for their citizens.

With more than half the world living in urban settings, cities are uniquely positioned to tackle the NCD epidemic.

“The road to our healthiest future runs through cities,” said José Luis Castro, President and CEO of Vital Strategies. “We’re proud to support the Partnership for Healthy Cities, a prestigious global network of 54 cities with leaders who have committed to taking steps to prevent NCDs or road injuries and deaths. These mayors have brought about remarkable achievements, from first-ever enforcement of seat-belt laws to restrictions on the sale and promotion of sugary drinks and tobacco. Not only do these efforts mean protections for millions, they are harbingers of change; we’ve seen that local efforts can advance national policy change.”

Vital Strategies provides technical support to each of the 54 cities in the Partnership for Healthy Cities, which is funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO). Each of the cities in the Partnership has selected among ten proven interventions identified by WHO as effective in protecting people from exposure to NCDs and injury risk factors.

City-led successes during the first year of the Partnership for Healthy Cities include:

  • Enforcement of citywide smoking bans in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Bandung, Indonesia; Kathmandu, Nepal; Shenzhen, China; Tianjin, China; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; and Bengaluru, India;
  • New healthy school food requirements in Quito, Ecuador, and in three cities in Colombia (Bogotá, Cali and Medellín);
  • Road transformations that protect schoolchildren from speeding cars in Lusaka, Zambia;
  • Restrictions on the sale and promotion of sugary drinks in Quezon City, Philippines; Cape Town, South Africa; Phnom Penh, Cambodia; and Seoul, South Korea;
  • First-ever citywide nutritional guidelines in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso;
  • Safer routes to school in Boston, Massachusetts (U.S.) and Toronto, Canada;
  • First-ever seat-belt law enforcement in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia;
  • Salt-free restaurant menu options in Montevideo, Uruguay; and
  • “Walkable/bikeable” initiatives to improve road safety, encourage active mobility and reduce traffic in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; Fortaleza, Brazil; Kyiv, Ukraine; and Melbourne, Australia.

Noncommunicable diseases (including heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and chronic respiratory diseases) kill 41 million people each year, or 71% of all deaths globally. Road-traffic crashes kill 1.25 million people each year and injure millions more; they are the leading cause of death among people aged 15-29 years. A majority of NCDs and road traffic deaths take place in low- and middle-income countries, and many are preventable when proven solutions are in place.

The Partnership for Healthy Cities was created following the 2016 appointment of Former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg as the WHO Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases, an appointment that was renewed last month.

For more information on the Partnership for Healthy Cities, visit:

About Vital Strategies

Vital Strategies is a global health organization that believes every person should be protected by a strong public health system. Our programs reach into 73 countries and help prevent death and illness from noncommunicable disease, reduce harm caused by environmental factors, and support cities as engines for public health. We consult with governments on issues including restricting junk food marketing to kids, promoting smoke-free laws, improving indoor and outdoor air quality, and strengthening road safety. These are protections that can add up to millions of lives saved. Our team combines evidence-based strategies with innovation to help develop and implement sound public health policies, manage programs efficiently, strengthen data systems, conduct research and design strategic communication campaigns for policy and behavior change.

To find out more, please visit or Twitter @VitalStrat.

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 NCD risk factors in their communities. For more information, visit: