The International Healthy Cities Foundation

The International Healthy Cities Foundation (IHCF) was created by Dr. Len Duhl as an organization dedicated to advancing the healthy cities movement throughout the world. IHCF is a sister organization to the Healthy Communities Institute.

What is the 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: 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 up through government representatives were very enthusiastic about the results of their efforts. This in turn 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 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.

Why Create the International Healthy Cities Foundation?

The International Healthy Cities Foundation was created to assist people and groups from many different sectors. The mission of the IHCF is to facilitate linkages among people, issues and resources in order to support the development of Healthy Cities initiatives.