WHO Healthy Cities and the origins of the Centre

The World Health Organization Healthy Cities project was launched in 1978. Its ambition is to promote health and well-being through action at the level of individual local authorities.

The network of connected cities has grown over the years. There are more than 2,000 municipalities linked through national Healthy City networks in Europe - with similar networks across all the regions of the globe.

The programme is supported by a number of WHO Collaborating Centres based in academic institutions, providing advice and research to the Healthy Cities network. The WHO Collaborating Centre at UWE Bristol was established in 1995, by Agis Tsouros, Director of the European network, and Colin Fudge, the then Dean of the Faculty of the Built Environment (now known as the College of Arts, Technology and Environment). This Centre is the only one in Europe to be based within an environment faculty (now a college). Its distinctive mission is to build bridges between the spheres of health and town planning.

In 1998, at the international Healthy Cities conference in Athens, the new term of 'healthy urban planning' was coined. The Executive Director of the Bristol Collaborating Centre, Hugh Barton, took the lead in shaping the agenda through inter-weaving the principles of healthy urban planning with those of sustainable development.

The first tangible result of the new initiative, with many people contributing their ideas, was a new book entitled Healthy Urban Planning: a WHO guide to planning for people, published jointly by WHO and Spon Press. The book was adopted by the European cities and subsequently by Healthy City networks around the World. It has been translated into five languages.

The latest WHO redesignation took place in 2015 for the period 2015-2019. In 2015, WHO staff published The Routledge Handbook of Planning for Health and Well-Being: Shaping a sustainable and healthy future.

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