Healthy Communities Institute History & Background

Healthy Cities Movement

The term Healthy Cities was coined in 1985. It was the title of a speech given at an international meeting in Canada. The theme was that health is the result of much more than medical care; people are healthy when they live in nurturing environments and are involved in the life of their community, when they live in Healthy Cities.

This presentation offered a new view of the interactions that affect people’s lives. It took into consideration the influence of the context – the place, surroundings, relationships and opportunities on the individual. It began to highlight the interconnections among what seem to be diverse elements and problems in society. And finally, it suggested the solutions to both community and quality of life problems also may be interwoven.

The World Health Organization (WHO) soon opened a Healthy Cities Project office in Europe. Cities were encouraged to target and solve local problems and get people from many parts of the community involved in the Healthy Cities process. Whether the primary reason people convene involves children, environmental concerns, homelessness, safety, education or other issues, the approach is always the same: a collaboration is organized among citizens and people from business, government and other sectors of society who recognize their interconnection can be used to impact the well-being of the entire community.

WHO then invited practitioners to come together and share strategies, resources and success stories. People from the local community level on up through government representatives were very enthusiastic about the results of their efforts. This in tern stimulated many more projects. Very similar activities and meetings were also taking place in the U.S., Canada, Latin America, Africa and Asia. While not always calling themselves Healthy Cities, the same approach – organizing people from diverse sectors to solve problems together – was being used. Both local and global gatherings continued to provide platforms for the exchange of Healthy Cities ideas and the Healthy Cities movement was born.

The Healthy Cities movement now includes projects in well over 1000 cities and more are starting all the time. Each project defines different goals and activities but all bring a wide variety of people into the community improvement work at hand. While in the past, people often divided into disciplines, sectors or interest groups to solve problems, when a Healthy Cities project is organized, everyone participates together.

In December 1993, the first global conference on Healthy Cities and Communities was held in California, USA. More than 1400 participants from communities in over 50 countries came together to share Healthy Cities strategies and build upon each other’s experience. An evaluation and needs assessment followed the conference and provided critical detail about the ongoing Healthy Cities support mechanisms needed. Participants asked for a clearinghouse of project descriptions and contacts, more ways to communicate with each other, publications including guides and case studies, training tools (i.e. videos, workbooks and kits), a speakers bureau, an International Healthy Cities Magazine, an electronic network, meetings and training.

Healthy Communities Foundation

The Healthy Communities Foundation operates as an independent 501C3 non-profit tax-exempt foundation based in the United States. Work to develop the Healthy Community Network (HCN) system began in 1995, a private grant was committed in 2002, and the Foundation was legally formed in 2003.

The Healthy Communities Foundation has worked closely with the University of California at Berkeley for many years. Faculty, staff and advisors from the fields of Health Informatics, Public Health, Clinical and Alternative Medicine and Health Policy guided and informed the development and evaluation of the Healthy Community Network system, and continue to do so in an advisory capacity.

“The HCN can be thought of as next-generation technology applied to the internationally widespread and WHO sanctioned Healthy Cities program, now in over 6,000 cities worldwide” states Dr. Leonard Duhl, founder of the Healthy Cities movement. Dr. Leonard Duhl is a professor at UC Berkley and sits on the Board of the HCF.

Our goal is to help communities maximize their quality of life. Creating a network of Healthy Communities is an important first step in achieving these goals.

Healthy Communities Institute

The Healthy Communities Institute is the marketing and implementation organization formed to widely disseminate the Healthy Communities Network around the United States and internationally. Formed in 2008, the Healthy Communities Institute leverages the philosophy of the Healthy Cities movement and the technology of the Healthy Communities Foundation to facilitate community change and to provide solutions and services for health departments, hospitals and community coalitions.