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Vital Stories

Three Cities Confronting Cancer

Cancer remains the second leading cause of death worldwide, yet up to half of cancers are preventable, according to the World Health Organization.

On World Cancer Day, many of the 54 cities in the Partnership for Healthy Cities are making inspiring progress on public health interventions that can prevent cancer and other noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). Here are three recent Partnership successes that stand out for their efforts. Each targets a different cancer driver—tobacco use, consumption of junk food and sugary drinks and sedentary lifestyles—and all are good models for how cities can build environments that promote health and wellness in their people.

1. Bandung, Indonesia

Former Bandung Mayor Ridwan Kamil (center) breaking cigarettes to show his support.

Smoking is the number one preventable risk factor for cancer, and secondhand smoke accounts for one out of every eight tobacco deaths worldwide. Indonesians smoke at especially high rates, and the city of Bandung (population: 2.4 million) is determined to protect the rights and the health of nonsmokers by providing smoke-free public spaces.

These Partnership-supported efforts are about to bear fruit with a new 100% smoke-free law on its way to the local parliament. If the regulation passes—and a wide range of city government agencies have expressed support for it—smoking will be prohibited in all indoor and outdoor public places and violators will be fined.

In 2018, Bandung’s work with the Partnership focused on building public support for the bill and enforcing current restrictions. New no-smoking signage went up all around the city, and hundreds of hotels, restaurants, shops and schools were randomly inspected, revealing increased compliance.

Eleven of the 54 Partnership cities are pursuing tobacco control interventions, nine in pursuit of becoming completely smoke-free and two banning tobacco advertising and promotion

2. Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso

The increasing availability of processed food and sugary drinks around the world is a significant contributor to rising rates of cancer and other NCDs. Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso (population: 2.2 million) is working with the Partnership for Healthy Cities to address this problem with new citywide health policies.

Just last month, Ouagadougou’s city council approved the city’s first-ever nutritional and hygiene guidelines, developed over the past year with Partnership support. Hospitals, schools, restaurants and food stalls will be required to meet basic standards, such as limitations on salt and sugar.

The West African city is also preparing a citywide communication campaign on the harms of sugary drink consumption, adapting a powerful campaign from Cape Town, South Africa (also a Partnership city). The campaign will be on billboards citywide, using personal stories from people with NCDs to emphasize the detrimental effects of diets with too many sugar-sweetened beverages.

Eleven Partnership cities are implementing food-related interventions ranging from sugary drink ads to replacing junk food with fresh, nutritional meals in schools.

3. Melbourne, Australia

Courtesy: City of Melbourne

Physical inactivity is another leading risk factor for preventable cancer and other NCDs worldwide, according to WHO. In 2017, Melbourne, Australia (population: 4.4 million) continued efforts to encourage cycling and walking by working with the Partnership to increase use of bike and pedestrian paths by the city’s workforce.

Melbourne’s innovative solution was to adapt a special mobile rewards app to promote city residents to be more active. Called Get Moving, the app sends out challenges—to walk a certain number of steps, for instance—and users accumulate points to win rewards. New challenges within the app continuously encourage physical activity.

The city is also engaging local employers to promote the app to their employees and introducing it at local cycling events. The goal is to coax Get Moving users to improve their health and well-being not just during commutes but during the work day as well.

Eleven cities are creating more walkable, bikeable streets through the Partnership.

Cancer prevention is taking other forms as well through the Partnership for Healthy Cities, always involving simple, cost-effective initiatives. Cities throughout the world are demonstrating that proven public health interventions can have a big impact on people’s health.

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: