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Design For Health

Global Health Data from the WHO

For those interested in the broad situation of health and place globally, the World Health Organization’s Global Health Observatory is a useful resource. The observatory includes data repository, reports, and a useful map gallery. Maps, using data at the country scale, cover a wide range of topics from average cholesterol and avian influenza to health expenditure. These are clear maps at a similar scale and a terrific resource.

WHO Maps

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

UN Habitat Reports on Health

UN Habitat produces and distributes a large number of reports, many related to health with numerous publications on water infrastructure, social inclusion, disaster management, housing issues, and climate change. Although you can buy printed reports that isn’t always necessary as many can be found for free.

Hidden Cities: Unmasking and Overcoming Health Inequities in Urban Settings (2010), produced in collaboration with the World Health Organization, provides a good overview of the history and current situation in terms of cities and health. Topics cange across the natural and build environment, social and conomic issues, food secutiy, health services, and general urban governange http://www.unhabitat.org/pmss/listItemDetails.aspx?publicationID=3049
Diagram from Hidden Cities
Collection of Municipal Solid Waste , Key issues for Decision-makers in Developing Countries (2011) grapples with an important problem in public health. Written in a very accessible style it answers practical questions about how too extend solid waste collection to a wider population. http://www.unhabitat.org/pmss/listItemDetails.aspx?publicationID=3231
A Global Assessment on Women’t Safety (2008) focuses on tools for enhancing safety including public education, adviacey, participatory approaches, and changing public spaces. It’s part of a series of reports on this topic http://www.unhabitat.org/pmss/listItemDetails.aspx?publicationID=2848
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