It was a busy week for the Partnership for Healthy Cities, with four participating cities—Kigali, São Paulo, Fortaleza and Bogotá—announcing the public health policies they’re pursuing under the project, with support from Vital Strategies, Bloomberg Philanthropies and the World Health Organization (WHO).
The Partnership is a global network of more than 50 cities undertaking projects proven to reduce death from noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as cancer and COPD or from injuries such as road crashes. The Partnership was born out of Michael Bloomberg’s role as World Health Organization Ambassador for NCDs. The idea combines his global leadership in public health, his interest in cities as engines for change and his experience driving rapid improvements as New York City’s former mayor. Partnership cities receive support and guidance to develop and execute their plans from global experts at Vital Strategies and other partners.
On Thursday, November 16th, the city of Kigali, Rwanda announced it will move toward going completely smoke-free as its commitment to improve health through the Partnership. Mayor Pascal Nyamulinda announced that the city will introduce citywide legislation and conduct a media campaign to inform the public about the benefits of such a law.
“We have started the process to encourage the population to stop smoking, because smoking kills,” Mayor Nyamulinda (below, center) told reporters, adding, “There should not be smoking zones—because the sky has no borders.”
Over the next few days, two cities in Brazil also unveiled new measures to improve their citizens’ health.
São Paulo announced a plan to install wayfinding signage in order to help cyclists better utilize the city’s growing bike lane system. Improving urban design for pedestrians, cyclists and cars is proven to generate health gains and is one of ten different public health interventions promoted by the Partnership.
“The idea is for people to realize that they could go faster by bicycle than by car,” said Secretary of Mobility and Transportation Sérgio Avelleda, who was joined at a press conference by other city officials and by Kelly Larson of Bloomberg Philanthropies.
Fortaleza has also chosen to focus on cycling. On Monday the 20th, Mayor Roberto Cláudio (below, right) announced through news media that the city would introduce a new bike sharing system, redesign four key bicycle crossings and install 250 new bike racks.
The bike sharing plan is aimed at encouraging private companies and city departments to sponsor and fund bikes—which should in turn encourage their employees to commute to work by bike. Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Kelly Larson spoke and Vital Strategies’ Sara Whitehead was privileged to join the event as well.
Bogotá—one of three Colombian cities in the Partnership—came next. Cali and Medellín have unveiled plans to improve the diets of schoolchildren and on Tuesday, November 21st, Bogotá committed to pursuing that goal too.
At the event, hundreds of schoolchildren participated in “active” games and clown shows—and enjoyed fresh fruit. Strategically important because it is Colombia’s capital, Bogotá will make it mandatory for schools to become certified as providing healthy food and will also ban the sale of junk food and sugary drinks in or near schools.
As the three largest cities in Colombia, it is hoped that their shared commitment to healthier school food strategies will spark other cities in the country to undertake similar efforts.