Health is a key component to individual wellbeing and for the society as a whole. A population’s good health is also necessary condition for prosperity and economic productivity. The Lisbon Strategy, for that matter, recognizes health as a key factor in economic growth. The approach to implementing this strategy only takes a limited account of the role played by cities and urban policies in this area. However, even if the majority of European cities do not have direct legal competencies related to health, their social and environmental actions interact on a daily basis with the well-being of city dwellers. For three years, the ten partners cities in the URBACT BHC project sought to better understand the urban factors that have an impact on the health and the means to integrate this objective in their urban policies.
Main ResultsThematic reports and tools that take into account the budget crisis cities are experiencing
The economic and financial crisis that very early impacted on the BHC project radically changed the priorities of partner cities and of all the concerned public authorities. What at first seemed like yet another reason to focus on public health projects quickly became a major obstacle to funding, particularly from European structural funds. The eligible cities in “Convergence” zones had to face an aggravation of their situation, which encouraged them to view health from the point of view of infrastructures, and the cities located in the “Competitiveness” zone faced difficulties in identifying health-related priorities in the regional operational programmes.
As a result, the three thematic meetings initially planned among partner cities were enriched by more practical-oriented meetings whose objective was to share experience with the new tools and methodologies enabling them to face the crisis:
- The first thematic meeting, organised on the theme of “indicators and criteria for healthy sustainable urban development” set out to draw up a summary of the most recent information on evaluating health in public policy. On this occasion, the BHC partner cities produced a “toolbox” of indicators that enable the measurement of the level of health and quality of life in European cities.
- The second workshop focussed on understanding how cities can positively influence lifestyle. On this occasion, the cities sought methodologies to test the quality of their actions.
- The third thematic meeting, on the theme of European structural funds and the manner in which cities can make better use of them for health-related projects, was organised at the height of the economic crisis. The BHC partner cities therefore also worked on the means of refashioning their urban regeneration policies in order to include in them objectives related to health and quality of life.
- Linking health to structural funding is possible if there is the real possibility of cooperation between Managing Authorities who manage these funds and cities, because this collaboration will enable the various parties to adjust their agendas.
- Health and quality of life intersect with very broad issues whose resolution requires the use of very different budget lines, programmes and projects.
- Greater attention should be given to investments that, although they do not fit into the health sector, provide a major added value to it, more specifically through economic, social and environmental impacts that are decisive for health.
- Knowledge of the structural funding process and of the funding opportunities they arrive is vital for cities and should be promoted throughout the European Union.
- The local level should valorise its role in health policy, both in terms of proposals, deployment and monitoring, and with regards to the lessons it can provide. Cities need to have a truly proactive role in public health.