Twitter +44 28 9032 8811

Belfast Healthy Cities

Our vision is to be a leader in creating
a healthy, equitable and sustainable city

Healthy Cities 21st Century

About Belfast Healthy Cities

Current Phase

Belfast Healthy Cities is part of the World Health Organization Healthy Cities Network, and our aim is to make Belfast a more healthy, equitable and sustainable city. We promote innovation, collaborative action and policies for better health and wellbeing for everyone.

A healthier Belfast means a better Belfast for all, and we work with central government and local councils, elected representatives and community leaders, local stakeholders and organisations from across the city and beyond. We also share learnings and best practice with other Healthy Cities around the world as we seek to achieve our goals.

Phase VI, 2014 - 2018

Shaped around the goals and objectives of the European strategy for health and well-being, Health 2020, the overarching goals of Phase VI were improving health for all, reducing health inequities and improving leadership and participatory governance for health. 

As part of our Child Friendly Places programme, Belfast Healthy Cities in this phase worked with a number of partner organisations including the Education Authority with whom we developed a teaching resource for primary schools - Healthy Places, Healthy Children.  The resource encourages pupils to look at their local built environment, identify challenges and develop their ideas into proposals to improve health outcomes for themselves and their communities.

This phase also introduced Health Literacy as a new core theme. Belfast Healthy Cities provided leadership in bringing to Northern Ireland a Health Literacy Training Programme for health care and other professionals, bespoke training sessions and hosted the 2018 UK Health Literacy Conference.

2018 marked 30 years of the WHO European Healthy Cities Network and 30 years for Belfast as a network member.  Belfast was the host to 600 delegates from 200 cities across 60 countries who attended the WHO International Healthy Cities Conference 'Changing Cities to Change the World'  which both celebrated 30 years as a Network and looked forward to the next Phase.  The Belfast Charter, which outlines the actions that cities will need to undertake in the next phase, was formally adopted at the Conference. 

Phase V, 2009 - 2013

The overarching goal for Phase V was Health Equity in all Policies (HEiAP) and provided Healthy Cities with the opportunity to extend their work with local government, central departments and other agencies.

During this Phase, Belfast Healthy Cities continued to provide an ongoing central role within the Network, as WHO Secretariat of the WHO European Healthy Cities Network.

As part of an EU Urbact II project, Building Healthy Communities, a set of indicators Good for Regeneration, Good for Health, Good for Belfast were produced to monitor how projects affect disadvantaged people.

On European Culture Night 2011 and on the following weekend the first Kids Square event took place transforming St Anne’s Square into a children’s space with active space, creative space and free space. Kids Square – renamed as Kids Space has become an annual event attracting large number of families with extremely positive feedback.

Phase IV, 2003 - 2008

Health Impact Assessments (HIAs) was introduced in this Phase and the following HIAs were conducted: Belfast Air Quality Action Plan; Houses in Multiple Occupation Policy; Green Travel Plan; Lower Shankill Regeneration; Connswater Community Greenway. These are available in Publications.

This Phase developed key documents including Investing for Health Indicators, later adapated with additional indicators, for monitoring progress within the Making Life Better framework.  Other publications which were widely used by partner and other organisations throughout the city included a publication series produced by the pilot Equity in Health training programme which focused on building organisational capacity to tackle inequalities in health.


The World Health Organization selected Belfast to host the 2003 International Healthy Cities Conference. This event attracted over 800 delegates from over 68 countries around the world. The international conference is held at the end of every five year phase and marks the official culmination of each phase of the Network. Politicians from represented cities pledged their continued support in the Belfast Declaration, which underpinnned Phase IV.

Phase III, 1998 - 2002

Phase III was launched with a Charter of Commitment by Chief Executives from the City. Planning for a Healthy City was the first intersectoral health development plan for Belfast and was later used as an example for Health Improvement Plans developed across Northern Ireland under the Investing for Health Partnerships. The City Health Development Plan approach is reflected now in Community Plans led by Councils across Northern Ireland.

Phase II, 1993 - 1997

The healthy buildings award was designed to encourage builders, architects and developers to produce buildings that were constructed using sustainable materials, providing healthy and safe indoor environments and paid attention to how buildings influences the local community. The competition was organised in 1992, 1994 and 1998 and promoted the concept of healthy buildings. A draft health policy for women in Belfast was published by the Women’s Health Issue Group in 1995.  Traffic Calming research was carried out in response to communities concern about the negative impact of traffic on their environment, health and quality of life.

Phase I, 1988 - 1992

Belfast first designated to WHO European Healthy Cities Network - a new partnership model based on three key principles: community participation; intersectoral working; and reducing inequalities in health. Community participation days were introduced in this phase to ensure community views on health and well-being were heard.