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Design For Health

WHO Healthy Cities

The WHO Healthy Cities Program has been around since the mid-1980s and but is not as well known in the United States as it perhaps should be. The program is focused on “health development through a process of political commitment, institutional change, capacity-building, partnership-based planning and innovative projects” (http://www.euro.who.int/en/what-we-do/health-topics/environment-and-health/urban-health/activities/healthy-cities). Healthy city activities typically focus on fostering collaborations and partnerships to promote health with a refreshing mix of interventions—policies, programs, and plans. Activities that won Healthy Cities Awards in recent years include schools that promote urban health, injury and violence prevention activities, best practices in public toilets, and healthy urban transportation (http://www.alliance-healthycities.com/htmls/awards/index_awards.html).


It’s hard to find exactly how many cities participate but the WHO European office claims that over 1,400 European cities take part in 30 national networks. As the network is global, presumably the overall numbers are much larger. An Alliance for Healthy Cities brings some of these cities together: http://www.alliance-healthycities.com/htmls/about/index_about.html 

The WHO European office has a useful healthy cities checklist that shows the wide range of topics of interest to the program from ecosystem health and public participation to diversity and economic vitality. You can read the whole list at http://www.euro.who.int/en/what-we-do/health-topics/environment-and-health/urban-health/activities/healthy-cities/who-european-healthy-cities-network/what-is-a-healthy-city/healthy-city-checklist

Blogs about Health and Places

As blogs have proliferated some have begun to deal with health and places. Below I list a sampling of the range of such sites, many dealing with health issues as part of a larger interest in topics such as urban development or housing. They are in alphabetical order.

City Parks Blog (http://cityparksblog.org/) is the blog of the Trust for Public Land’s Center for City Park Excellence and the City Parks Alliance. One of the interests of the center is in health: http://cityparksblog.org/2009/01/06/parks-mediate-our-urban-mental-health/
From State of the Planet blog

Healthy Cities (http://healthyurbanplanning.blogspot.com/) is the blog of Jason Corburn, a faculty member at Berkeley. It focuses on highlighting resources such as reports and statistics and has an international flavor.

Squatter City (http://squattercity.blogspot.com/) is maintained by Robert Neuwirth. Neuwirth is journalist and author of Shadow Cities, a 2006 book based on a total of two years of living in four different squatter settlements. My undergraduate students find it a compelling read. Neuwirth’s blog deals with a wide range of issues about urban settlements.

State of the Planet (http://blogs.ei.columbia.edu) is a compilation of blogs from the Earth Institute at Columbia University. It is by far the most elaborate in this list with fancy graphics, multiple contributors, and obviously represents a lot of staff time. It has a useful keyword search.

Urban Chickens (http://www.urbanchickens.net/) is an example of a blog about local food production. Entries deal with many of the practicalities of raising one’s own eggs. The proliferation of these kinds of blogs really help people who have a DIY approach. Keep an eye out for next year’s listing of urban chicken coop tours: http://www.urbanchickens.net/2010/03/urban-chicken-coop-tours-in-2010.html
Walk Score, the blog (http://blog.walkscore.com/) builds off the popularity of the walkscore tool. In the main web site an automated calculation based on destinations such as shops. As an expert on pedestrian planning I think this is oversimplified but the tool itself is fun and the blog is a mix of example results and tips about using the scoring (e.g. how to customize scores).
Other web resources about health and places are available at: http://designforhealth.net/blogs-about-health-and-places/
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