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Vital Stories

Meet Seven Women Leading the Fight Against NCDs and Road Injuries in their Cities

On International Women’s Day, we’re celebrating the work of seven mayors who are tackling the most pressing public health issues in their cities through the Partnership for Healthy Cities. Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease along with road injuries are responsible for 80% of deaths worldwide.

To tackle this ever-increasing global burden, urban leaders are taking on the challenge of NCDs and road injuries by implementing and enforcing policies to create healthy environments for healthier populations. 

Today we recognize these seven women mayors who are stepping up with powerful, proven strategies to reduce NCDs and road injuries in cities across the globe. 

Mayor Rosy Senanayake of Colombo, Sri Lanka is a former member of Parliament with a special interest in issues of concern to women and children. Mayor Senanayake is hoping to make healthy eating the norm in Colombo by establishing new nutritional and hygiene standards and replacing junk food in schools with fresher and more traditional fare. 

Mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr of Freetown, Sierra Leone understands the challenges of unplanned rapid urbanization. In Freetown, poverty, inadequate housing and the replacement of food prepared in the home by street food have led to the rise of NCDs such as type 2 diabetes. A combination of food policy and communications will increase residents’ awareness about and access to healthy meals. 

Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot of Chicago, United States is continuing the city’s cutting edge work with the Partnership by building out a novel decision-support tool using open data from NASA satellites, EPA sensors and other sources to visualize land use and air quality; coupling that with socioeconomic indicators and health outcomes to better inform interventions to improve air quality and health. This will contribute to the indicators already displayed on the Chicago Health Atlas and efforts to improve health equity across the city. The former federal prosecutor is the city’s first openly gay and African-American female mayor.

Mayor Soham el Wardini of Dakar Senegal is concerned about the nutritional quality of food served in public institutions and is determined to measure local NCD prevalence and set standards for preventing these diseases. The city is surveying residents of Dakar before settling on a focus for this work to figure out if, for example, trans fats, salt or sugar is the main problem. A healthy-eating mass media campaign will follow.  

Mayor London Breed of San Francisco, United States is her city’s first black woman mayor and working with the Partnership to network patient data about NCDs among a range of health care systems in San Francisco. The goal is to be able to assess NCDs by neighborhood, targeting health problems more effectively.

Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum of Mexico City, Mexico, is her city’s first elected woman mayor and a scientist with degrees in physics and energy engineering. Mexico City’s Partnership intervention aims to improve road safety in school zones by transforming surrounding areas and by bringing parents, teachers and community members into the decision-making process. 

Mayor Bijal Patel of Ahmedabad, India, is working with Partnership support to measure the prevalence of NCD risk factors such as smoking and unhealthy diets in her western Indian city. The city has conducted a population-based household survey and is developing an action plan to address the risk factors identified. 

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: