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Healthy Cities 21st Century

Belfast Healthy City Explorer Travel Bursary Blog: Part Two

On Thursday I was welcomed to the institute of Public Health by the Director, Else-Karin Groholt and Head of Division Eva Skovland along with their colleagues who presented information on public health profiles for municipalities and counties and the Norwegian ‘Burden of Disease’ project. They demonstrated the changing trends in disease and the importance of linking data including disease, lifestyle, education and where people live in order to tackle social inequalities. They noted the importance of embedding a requirement to gather data about health and health determinants in legislation to assist with tackling social inequalities as well as planning for allocation of resources. This is an example of the impact which health has - or can have - across all policy areas.

On Friday I travelled to Oppegard, a municipality on the outskirts of Oslo to meet the mayor and current Chair of Healthy Cities Norway, Ilda Eidem Lovaas. Oppegard is one of the richest and most densely populated municipalities in Norway with 12000 inhabitants in a 6 x 6kkm area. Oppegard is regarded as a prime example of how a healthy city area should operate with a higher life expectancy and lower disease prevalence than most other municipalities. Ilda puts this down to a number of factors including the integration of healthcare and the environment and a willingness among its inhabitants to tackle social inequalities and to live in a cohesive, integrated society.

Indeed when the Norwegian Public Health Act was being crafted, Oppegard was looked to as a model for the principle of Health in All Policies.

Despite this, the Mayor refuses to be complacent, saying that inequities still exist and must be tackled and that health must continuously be pushed up the agenda. In this regard, the Public Health Act has been an invaluable tool for her.

I concluded the week back in the Ministry for Health and Care Services for a summary meeting discussing ways in which the Public Health Act has improved policy-making in Norway.

That was the end of my ‘official duties’ but not the exertions. Being in Oslo I took the opportunity to register for the marathon, which I completed in the 4 hour mark. Saturday I ran a 4hr marathon...which I was delighted with.

As they might say locally: "Har det bra Oslo, tussen takk."

Anne McNally
Recipient of the first Belfast Healthy City Explorer Bursary.