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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

Governance and Board of Directors

Belfast Healthy Cities is an independent partnership organisation within the city with a specific remit to deliver the priority themes of the WHO European Healthy Cities Network within the local context.

Our key partners and funders include Belfast City Council and the Public Health Agency. Other partners and funders include Northern Ireland Housing Executive and Belfast Health and Social Care Trust.

Belfast Healthy Cities has been recognised as having charitable status by The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland. We are governed by a Board, elected at the Annual General Meeting which is representative of the public, university, voluntary and community sector.

Board Members

Dr Karen Casson

Dr Karen Casson is a Lecturer in Health Promotion and Public Health and a member of the Institute of Nursing and Health Research Centre at Ulster University with responsibilities for postgraduate health promotion and public health education. She is also actively involved in funded research projects and supervision of Doctoral and MSc students.  She graduated with a PhD in Epidemiology from University of Ulster in 2009 and has an Honours degree in Business Studies and a Master of Business Administration from University of Ulster and a Certificate in Health Economics from Aberdeen University.

Karen joined University of Ulster in 2000 after working as a researcher in the arenas of housing and health and social research for 11 years.  Her particular interests are in health and social inequalities, maternal and infant health, Personal and Public Involvement, young people’s health and social needs, health literacy, physical activity, sexual health and economic evaluation.

Karen is Vice Chair of Belfast Health Cities Board and chairs the multiagency Health Inequalities Group led by Belfast Health Cities.  Karen is also Vice-Chair of the Northern Ireland Longitudinal Study (NILS) User Group, a member of the NILS Steering Group and a Co-investigator on the Administrative Data Research Network.

Dr Bernadette Cullen

Dr Bernadette Cullen graduated in Medicine from Queen’s University Belfast, and worked in hospital medicine for a few years before deciding to specialise in Public Health.  Following completion of her specialist training, which included a Masters at Edinburgh University and professional exams, Bernadette obtained a Consultant in Public Health post.  She worked in the Eastern Health and Social Services Board for nineteen years and, following health service restructuring in 2009, in the regional Public Health Agency based in Belfast.  Her main areas of interest are and responsibility included population Screening Programmes and Health Improvement, she was regional lead for Sexual Health.  She left the Public Health Agency in 2014 and is currently an independent Board Member for Belfast Healthy Cities and chairs the Healthy Cities Working Group on Health Literacy.

Prof Geraint Ellis

Prof Geraint Ellis is Chair of Environmental Planning and Director of Research (Sustainable Built Environment) in the School of Natural and Built Environment and an affiliate member at the Centre for Excellence in Public Health-Northern Ireland, Queens University, Belfast. He is Co-Editor of the Journal of Environmental Policy and Planning and a founder member of the editorial board of the new journal, Cities & Health. He also holds a position of an adjunct professor at Western Ontario University, Canada. His main research interests include the way environmental issues and the planning process affects people’s well-being and as such now focuses on energy, health and marine issues, equality and planning pedagogy. He has published widely in these areas and lead a range of major studies examining the health impacts of the built environment and social aspects of the low carbon energy transition.

Michael Gibbs

Michael Gibbs is the Director of Healthcare and the Public Sector at Different Tracks Global Ltd, a consulting and training company that specializes in leadership development, long-term financial management, conflict management and executive coaching.

For more than 25 years, Michael has worked directly and indirectly with civil society and the public sector.  After graduating from Harvard in 1989, Michael initially worked for multinational consulting firm, Anderson Consulting and has a strong background in financial management.  He went on to share this expertise in Australia, working with the Aboriginal community on land rights issues before travelling to Zanzibar where he worked for the Ministry of Health, as a Director of Policy for three years working extensively with the Global Fund, World Health Organization (WHO), the World Bank and the Aga Khan Foundation.

In addition, Michael serves as a mediator in international and domestic matters including civil and employment disputes.  He works with individuals and groups to design, improve and repair attitudes, relationships and strategic alliances.  He travels nationally and internationally, assisting healthcare and third sector organisations to develop the communication skills that support operational success.  Clients include: Health and Social Care Northern Ireland, Royal College of GPs, Craigavon Borough Council, Belfast City Council, Irish Schools of Ecumenics, NHS Southampton, the Northern Ireland Executive, the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, Tenet Healthcare (USA) and the California State Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation (USA).

Robin Hawe

Robin has over thirty years’ experience working in social housing with the Housing Executive. As Head of the Belfast Place Shaping Unit, Robin is responsible for social housing needs assessment, planning, land asset management and regeneration within the Belfast Region. The focus of this relatively new role is to foster a community-led approach to shaping neighbourhoods using a range of initiatives including master-planning and community asset transfer. This involves the development and implementation of a housing-led approach to building sustainable neighbourhoods through the effective management of Housing Executive land assets and the development of innovative regeneration approaches. 

Nigel McMahon

Nigel is the principal government adviser on the environment and health and works closely with the district council Environmental Health Service.

Nigel began his career in the Environmental Health team at Belfast City Council in 1986 before joining the Department of the Environment in 1993. From 1996, he headed up the Air and Environmental Quality Unit, focusing on air quality and noise control policy, before joining the Department of Health as Chief Environmental Health Officer in 2002. Nigel chairs the NI Drinking Water and Health Liaison Group and the Climate Change and Health Partnership. He previously chaired the Board of Belfast Healthy Cities and the Chief Environmental Health Officer’s Group, and acted as public health policy adviser to WHO on health economics and air pollution. Nigel is a Board member of Belfast Healthy Cities and Harmony Community Trust.

Nigel is a Visiting Professor with the School of the Built Environment at Ulster University and lectures on the Masters in Public Health at Queen’s University Belfast. He is also a Chartered Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, a Fellow of the Faculty of Public Health and a Fellow of the Royal Society for Public Health.

Danny McQuillan

Danny joined Extern in March 2014 as Director of Services. He was formerly Director of Positive Life - Northern Ireland's only voluntary sector organisation providing dedicated support to all people affected by HIV. Prior to leading Positive Life his roles included Head of Development for the Multiple Sclerosis Society NI and Area Manager with the Alzheimer’s Society.

For over twenty years Danny has worked in the community and voluntary sector holding a variety of positions both voluntarily and in paid capacities. In his role as Director of Services, Danny draws on his particular areas of expertise which include service development and delivery, service commissioning and quality assurance, policy development, public relations, fundraising and social media development.

Danny oversees the delivery of a range of services to people who are homeless, people leaving prison, those living with an addiction and providing support to refugees.

As the Director of Services for 'Young People and Families’ and ‘Communities' on an all-Ireland basis, he is responsible for providing leadership to the directorate, ensuring a long-term strategy is in place and that it is achieving its objectives in full as well as maintaining and substantially growing service provision across all-Ireland and assessing potential for growth into other geographic areas.

Danny also line manages the Extern Works Project which provides a range of training and support services including essential and soft skills through to vocational qualifications to individuals from a range of disadvantaged backgrounds including people affected by homelessness, ex-offenders, people with mental health issues and individuals with learning difficulties.

Dr Elizabeth Mitchell

As a medical practitioner, Dr Mitchell’s career in public health spans over 30 years and has covered all three domains of public health.   She was Deputy Chief Medical Officer (Public Health), DHSSPS, until January 2014 when she was appointed to the Institute of Public Health in Ireland (IPH), initially as a Consultant in Public Health Medicine, and from March to November 2016 as Interim Chief Executive.

Elizabeth is Chairperson of the Belfast Food Network (BFN) Advisory Committee and convener/chair of the BFN food poverty and health working group.  She is also on the Management Council of Camphill Community Glencraig

Elizabeth graduated with Second Class Honours from Queen's University Belfast in 1980.  She is a Fellow of the UK Faculty of Public Health, a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians (Edinburgh) and a Member of the Faculty of Public Health Medicine, of the Royal College of Physicians Ireland.

Bryan Nelson

Bryan Nelson works in Belfast Health and Social Care Trust as a Co-Director Public Health managing the Trust’s Health Improvement, Community Development and Personal and Public Involvement teams.

Bryan has experience working in a number of roles in the NHS initially as a Podiatrist and then a variety of project management roles. Bryan has a strong desire to improve health and wellbeing and reduce the inequalities that exist in Belfast and across the region. To effect this change his belief is that this needs to happen in partnership and as such his work reflects this collective approach.

Outside work Bryan enjoys running, walking and watching his 3 boys playing hockey.

Carol Ramsey

Carol Ramsey took up the post of Director of Strategic Planning Division in December 2015 in Department for Infrastructure. She is a chartered Town Planner with over 33 years experience working in both the private and public sector, including posts in the NIHE, the former DOE Planning Service and in Belfast Regeneration Directorate in what was then the Department for Social Development.

During her tenure in DSD Carol notably was responsible for spearheading the comprehensive redevelopment scheme at Victoria Square in Belfast City Centre. She was also responsible for drafting and implementing Regeneration Policy in Belfast City Centre over a 13 year period.

Dr David Stewart

Dr David Stewart was the Director of Public Health for the Eastern Health and Social Services Board, from 1995 to 2007, and the Medical Director of the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority, from 2007 until he retired in September 2016.

He was a member of the Board of Belfast Healthy Cities from 1996 to 2007 and served as Chair for a three year period.  He chaired the Steering Group for the organisation of the International Healthy Cities Conference which was held in Belfast in 2003.

He is interested in the history of the development of public health in Belfast and leads occasional history walks around Belfast city centre.