Skip to content ↓
CEO Perspective

Spotlight: Cities on the Front Lines of a Healthier Future

In Sept. 2020, Jakarta, a member of the Partnership for Healthy Cities global network, launched the ambitious Clean Air Partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies and Vital Strategies as an implementing partner. Photo: Downtown Jakarta (by Vital Strategies Asia-Pacific regional office.) 

With 55% of the world’s population living in cities—and that figure expected to rise to 68% by 2050—urbanization has become a determinant for health in its own right. Cities are places where health can be produced or compromised, and city leaders have shown that they can lead the way for their regions and countries by creating systems that promote and protect health. This was already happening before the pandemic, and as they respond to COVID-19’s outsized impact on their people, city leaders have stepped up even more to protect health and health systems.  

The Partnership for Healthy Cities has worked since 2017 to support cities to prevent noncommunicable diseases and injuries. As COVID-19 spread around the world in early 2020, the initiative expanded to respond with technical support from the Prevent Epidemics team at Vital Strategies’ Resolve to Save Lives initiative. Over the past eight months, the Partnership has provided over $1 million in financial assistance to cities in the network, enabling cities to launch critical risk communication campaigns, build or enhance systems to track outbreaks, and implement legal guidance on measures that protect health and safety. At the same time, cities are using the momentum of their COVID-19 response to embrace new opportunities to promote healthier, more sustainable systems and behaviors.

 We can’t be sure how the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to unfold in the coming months, but we can and will continue to support cities as their leaders make hard decisions to protect health while maintaining economic stability and social cohesion—and focus on a future where everyone is protected by a strong public health system. 

—José Luis Castro 
President and CEO, Vital Strategies 

We’ve curated some of our urban health-related videos, statements, reports and blogs.

What To Watch  

COVID-19 and Beyond: Cities on the Front Lines of a Healthier Future (VitalTalks)

To mark World Cities Day 2020, the Partnership for Healthy Cities—supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the World Health Organization and Vital Strategies—hosted a special VitalTalks event on how cities are leading us through the pandemic toward a healthier world. Speakers included Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, Michael R. Bloomberg, 108th mayor of New York City and founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies, and José Luis Castro, President and CEO of Vital Strategies as well as mayors from the Partnership’s global network. 

Expert Focus 

Urban Leadership in Response to COVID-19 Heralds a Healthier Future: Q&A with Ariella Rojhani 

Meet the Woman at the Center of London’s Redefined Approach to Childhood Health 

Air Pollution: Why Focus on Cities? 

CEO Perspective  

Press Statement: “Cities are already using the momentum of their pandemic response to embrace new opportunities for healthier, more sustainable systems and behaviors”

Cities Leading the Way 

Speech to 3rd Asia Pacific Cities Alliance for Tobacco Control and Prevention of NCDs 

Global Policy 

Six Case Studies from Cities on the Front Lines of the Pandemic (WHO)

Responding to COVID-19 Through Peer Exchange: Cities Trade Strategies and Lessons Learned on Data Surveillance and Tobacco Control 

Accelerating City Progress on Clean Air: An Innovation and Action Guide 

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

Vital Stories

Winning Public Trust in the Age of COVID-19: Mayors Trade Real-World Successes in Virtual Learning Series 

A Dream Come True: Pairing Art with Public Health to Save Lives in Philadelphia 

COVID-19 Brings a Bloom in Bike Lanes: Latin American Cities Exchange Best Practices 

Reaching the Most At-Risk: Mayors Work To Address COVID-19’s Inequitable Impact 


Partnership for Health Cities COVID-19 Response Center 

Toward Clean Air Jakarta: Improving Air Quality In Jakarta in the Near- and Long-Term 

Urban Health (Oxford University Press)