City Stories

The Partnership for Healthy Cities presents key accomplishments from cities in its global network, whose leaders have taken on the role of urban health champions. Scroll down to read about cities in the network — more stories to come!

Please also see a full set of case studies on cities and urban health from the World Health Organization.

COVID-19 Response

A year ago, amid the global rush to roll out COVID-19 vaccines to as many people as possible, the Partnership for Healthy Cities committed to supporting vaccine equity projects in 18 cities in its network. It was clear that the pandemic was exacerbating health disparities—as was the uneven global vaccine delivery itself—so a package of grants and technical support went to Partnership cities employing innovative approaches to reach their communities.

The results have been remarkable, with almost 3.5 million people vaccinated through the program, more than 200 million people around the world viewing media campaigns to boost vaccine confidence, supplies sent to mass vaccination sites on several continents, and long-term public health investments secured for expanding disease surveillance capacity, training health care workers and more.

The vaccine initiative came in the second year of the Partnership’s program to support pandemic response, an expansion of the network’s mission to support cites on prevention of noncommunicable diseases and injuries. In collaboration with Resolve to Save Lives and the World Health Organization, the Partnership enlisted the world’s leading experts on epidemic prevention, with technical assistance and funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies and Vital Strategies rounding out the picture.

The Partnership for Healthy Cities COVID-19 response work has focused on technical and financial assistance geared toward challenges faced by every city during the pandemic—ranging from planning for vaccine distribution rollouts to managing risk communication, and from maintaining city services to implementing legal guidance on measures that protect health and safety.

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Bandung, Indonesia

In May 2021, the city of Bandung passed a law designating eight types of smoke-free areas, including places of worship and children's playgrounds. Mayor Oded Muhammad Danial unveiled the new law to the public on World No Tobacco Day, May 31.

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Barcelona, Spain

Since joining the Partnership in 2018, Barcelona’s Public Health Agency (ASPB) has been conducting a health impact assessment of three of the city’s Superblocks—a leading urban design initiative aimed at reducing traffic, air and noise pollution. The assessment included surveys with local residents to understand health benefits, specifically changes in physical activity and in the communities’ use of the newly designated public spaces.

Photo: courtesy of Ajuntament de Barcelona

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Buenos Aires, Argentina

In 2017, 140 people died from road traffic crashes in Buenos Aires, Argentina. A survey that same year indicated that 43 percent of drivers in the city had consumed alcohol before driving in the past year, revealing a serious drink driving problem. In 2020, research determined that speeding was another major cause of road traffic crashes. The city has since implemented a number of interventions with support from the Partnership for Healthy Cities, including new breathalyzer technology and checkpoint improvements.

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Lima, Peru

In June 2021, the Municipality of Lima adopted a major policy milestone in its efforts to reduce obesity and noncommunicable diseases: a city ordinance to create healthy food promotion programs, restrict the availability and marketing of unhealthy foods around schools and mandate measures such as the removal of saltshakers in restaurants.

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Lusaka, Zambia

An estimated 3,586 people die on Zambia’s roads each year, and about 37 percent of those killed are pedestrians, many in the capital city of Lusaka. The city is determined to improve road safety and joined the Partnership for Healthy Cities to protect children in particular, as they are especially vulnerable to road traffic injuries while walking to and from school.

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Cali, Colombia

Cali launched a no-fee bicycle sharing program with Partnership support in September 2020, featuring a phone application and a communication campaign to encourage cycling, both as a strategy for safe distancing—to help prevent the spread of COVID-19—and as an affordable solution for safe and active mobility.

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How Six Cities Are Communicating About COVID-19

Among cities’ many urgent needs since the pandemic struck a year ago, communicating effectively with the public has been key. The challenge is not just providing basic information about COVID-19 and its effects but also finding the right words and images to encourage people to protect themselves and others from the coronavirus.

Delve into city campaigns in this video.

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Ahmedabad, India

With support from the Partnership, Ahmedabad is implementing a population-based household survey of NCD risk factors, based on the World Health Organization’s STEPwise Approach to NCD Risk Factor Surveillance (STEPS).

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Athens, Greece

Athens has taken purposeful steps to ensure that its residents who inject drugs and are unhoused receive the help they need.

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Freetown, Sierra Leone

The high rate of informal settlements and urban density in Freetown tested the traditional public health response to COVID-19 and encouraged innovation and experimentation. The Partnership for Healthy Cities supported the city in developing targeted risk communication for specific urban audiences.

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Kampala, Uganda

Kampala is the only large metropolis in Uganda and one of the fastest growing cities in Sub-Saharan Africa. The city is continuing to strengthen compliance with the national 2015 Tobacco Control Act and ensure that all public spaces are smoke-free. With support from the Partnership, Kampala has also doubled down on its COVID-19 pandemic response.

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Yangon, Myanmar

By March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic had put thousands of workers out of work in Yangon and become a serious health threat. Authorities decided right away that a mass media campaign focused on behavior change would be key for preventing wider spread of the virus and avoiding drastic shutdown measures down the line.

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COVID-19 City Communication Campaigns

Among cities’ many urgent needs since the pandemic struck a year ago, communicating effectively with the public has been key: The challenge is not just providing basic information about COVID-19 and its effects but finding the right words and images to coax people into protecting themselves and others from the coronavirus. This is easier said than done amid widespread misinformation about the pandemic.

Here we highlight just six of the dozens of cities in the Partnership for Healthy Cities global network that have created COVID-19 communications campaigns in recent months, most of them based on the “3W’s”—wear a mask, wash your hands, watch your distance—but often adapted to local needs.

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