The Chief Executive of Belfast Healthy Cities, Joan Devlin, is stepping down from her role after almost 30 years at the helm. Belfast has been a designated ‘Healthy City’ in the World Health Organization European Healthy Cities Network for 35 years and Joan has been Chief Executive for the vast majority of that time.

During her time as Chief Executive, Belfast has been central to the WHO European Healthy Cities Network, ensuring that health featured in the development of public policy here and sharing policy experience with a range of cities across Europe. On two occasions Belfast hosted the International Healthy Cities Conference, bringing hundreds of public representatives and health professionals from across the 6 WHO Global regions to the city in 2003 and 2018.

Joan led the WHO Healthy Cities Secretariat for 10 years which put Belfast at the heart of health public policy in Europe, the only city to have held this position.

Belfast Healthy Cities has championed and provided leadership on a range of issues in recent years including health inequality, health literacy, healthy places and making Belfast a more walkable city.

Joan Devlin has ensured that Belfast is now one of the most highly regarded cities in the European network.

The Chair of Belfast Healthy Cities, Michael Boyd paid tribute to the outgoing Chief Executive.

“Belfast really does have a significant profile and status across the WHO European Healthy Cities Network. I have seen this in my time as Chair and it is encouraging to see how Belfast shares policy ideas with other European cities, brings new health initiatives back to Northern Ireland and encourages policy makers at home to make health a priority in all policy development. Belfast Healthy Cities has a major impact and Joan deserves enormous credit for her work across this city and across the whole of Europe over the years.”

Joan is looking forward to more relaxed pace when she steps down from her position.

“This really has been the most worthwhile role and it has been a privilege to represent Belfast and Northern Ireland in the World Health Organization Healthy Cities Network. At home BHC pioneered a partnership approach and I do want to acknowledge the level of co-operation, support and input to our work which we have had from Public Health Agency, Belfast City Council, Belfast Health & Social Care Trust, and Northern Ireland Housing Executive as our main funders and a wide range of government departments, universities and voluntary and community organisations.

“My small team of colleagues will carry on that work in the professional and dedicated manner they always have and I wish my successor every success. I may be stepping back from the day to day job, but I will always have the interests of Belfast and the impact of health policy at heart. My thanks go out to my colleagues in the staff team and the Board who have always been very supportive.”

Belfast Lord Mayor Cllr Ryan Murphy paid tribute to Joan.

“In Council we have come to associate Joan Devlin with both Belfast Healthy Cities and the World Health Organization. She has been a tireless advocate for public health and for ensuring that Belfast takes its place right in the centre of the discussion of how to make Belfast a healthier city for everyone. I wish her well in retirement and I know that whoever succeeds Joan will continue to champion public health and Belfast City Council will continue to work with Belfast Healthy Cities as a key organisation in our city.”