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Belfast Healthy Cities

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

Healthy Cities 21st Century

Belfast delegation in WHO visit

Last weekend the planning for the 2018 European Healthy Cities Conference which will take place in Belfast stepped up a gear when a delegation from Belfast Healthy Cities travelled to Copenhagen for a two day series of meetings with World Health Organization colleagues.

Joan and Caroline were joined by BHC Chair David Stewart and communication advisor Brendan Mulgrew as they met with the WHO delegation, headed by Monika Kosinska, who was joined at various intervals by Stephanie Brickman, Srdan Matic, Francesca Racioppi, Manfred Huber and Porcia Maley. The Belfast delegation arrived in Copenhagen on Sunday afternoon and took in a stroll around the city in late summer Scandinavian sunshine. Copenhagen is a charming city with hints of Amsterdam along the Nyhavn canals. The cycling infrastructure is also reminiscent of the Dutch capital; there is not one road which doesn’t have a cycle lane and here, the bike is king. Each train station and each train carriage is designed to accommodate the cyclists with the result being that rush hour doesn’t involve an endless flow of cars or even buses, rather cyclists dominate and it is not uncommon to see parents with children loaded on buggies at the front wheel and even elderly parents being ferried on two wheels. That was a revelation but we also know that this culture took years, decades to emerge through infrastructure investment and a culture which encourages a reduced dependence on the car.

We headed to UN City, by bus and foot on Monday morning and began to map out what next year’s conference will look like. The 2018 European Healthy Cities Conference will mark the 30th anniversary of the Healthy Cities network and in fact will be the 30th anniversary of the establishment of Belfast Healthy Cities. In the current uncertainty around a post Brexit Europe we value our European partnerships and networks more than ever and these important milestones will feature significantly next year.

At Belfast Healthy Cities we want to ensure that this event is not confined to the central venue, at Belfast’s magnificent new Waterfront Hall. We will seek to put in place site visits which take in all that Belfast has to offer, including a walking (and maybe even a running) tour, and engagement with our vibrant community and voluntary sector. We are determined that this conference will leave a legacy both for us as a host city and also for the attendees who will gather from across Europe and from further afield.

We are happy to report that this broad objective and lofty ambition is shared by our WHO colleagues. We swapped ideas for conference themes, potential speakers and the overall ‘shape’ of our event. Now we know broadly what kind of conference 2018 will be, the time is here to start selling that message and making sure the Healthy Cities network across the globe is tuned in. That work starts next week in Budapest, Prague and in Cork.

We are really up and running now, and the seeds sewn in Copenhagen this week will reap a rich Belfast harvest, 13 months from now.