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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

Happy birthday NHS & Belfast Healthy Cities

As we celebrate 70 years of the NHS and 30 years of Belfast Healthy Cities and the European Healthy Cities Network, Joan Devlin looks at the impact these organisations have had on the health of our city:

On the 5th July 1948 Labour Minister for Health Aneurin Bevan launched the National Health Service, and 70 years on it is hard to quantify the incredible impact this service has had on all our lives.  In some ways it has become a service we all take for granted. At its core it had three overarching principles, which are still maintained to this day:

  • That it meets the needs of everyone; 
  • That it be free at the point of delivery;
  • That it be based on clinical need, not ability to pay.

Bevan’s goal was to nationalise all health services and workers, to create a service where, in recognising the importance of good health, everyone would have access to the health treatment they needed. The modern day NHS faces some very difficult issues, the impact of constrained funding and an ageing population inevitably creates long term pressure which requires a long term resolution and commitment. The fact that the NHS remains largely intact 70 years on, is a huge testament to the vision of those who oversaw its creation, as well as the hard work of nurses, doctors and other staff over the decades. 

While the frontline goal of the National Health Service was free treatment for everyone throughout their life, it also had health promotion and disease prevention as vital parts of the service and educating people on the importance of good health. That the NHS was aimed at bringing better health outcomes to each individual, meant that a greater collective good was brought to the whole community and nobody would be left behind. 

While we mark the 70th birthday of the NHS, 2018 also has a number of other important anniversaries - it is also 70 years since the foundation of the World Health Organization and 30 years since the European Healthy Cites Network was founded, of which Belfast was one of the first cities to join. 

While the NHS was delivering care free at the point of delivery for everyone, the WHO constitution looks at health as being “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” These principles, which take a much wider overview of health and wellbeing, are what have helped shaped the role of Belfast Healthy Cities over the last 30 years. 

WHO Healthy Cities established the principles of community participation, reducing inequalities and interagency working, which are now mainstreamed in all public bodies in the city. Belfast in the late 1980s and early 1990s was a city emerging from a 30 year conflict and the idea that communities would work in partnership with Government bodies was an exciting and challenging concept. 

As a member of the WHO European Healthy Cities Network, Belfast Healthy Cities has introduced many innovative concepts to our city including Health Impact Assessment, Active Living, Heathy Urban Planning, Health Literacy and Healthy Ageing. It is now accepted within the city that health impacts on all aspects of policy and that there is a direct correlation between standards of health and income, educational achievement and the socio-environment in which we live. 

Our work has helped to ensure that health is a factor in developing public policy, especially on housing, where the first Health & Housing Towards a Shared Agenda was developed through networks within Healthy Cities, as well as transport and planning policy.

The achievements of Belfast Healthy Cities also include the establishment of Active Living and Heathy Ageing Partnerships in the city, as well as a health equity tool for partners that can be used by all sectors to scope their policy for equity impact. We have seen the work we have done in Belfast replicated across other cities in the Healthy Cities Network. 

With these milestones for organisations which have utterly transformed the approach and outcomes of health for all our citizens taking place in 2018, it is appropriate that Belfast will host the World Health Organization International Healthy Cities Conference, 1-4 October 2018.  Health and community professionals from across the globe will gather in Belfast to hear from leading experts on public health and to celebrate the positive impact the WHO, NHS, European Healthy Cities Network and, of course, Belfast Healthy Cities have had on the lives of so many people.

We look forward to welcoming you to Belfast in October. 

For further information and registration details, please visit the Conference Website.