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National Civic Review, Special Issue - Healthy Cities at 25

 by Vincent T Francisco, PhD

Title: National Civic Review, Special Issue - Healthy Cities at 25
Author(s) : National Civic League

Reviewed by Vincent T Francisco, PhD

National Civic Review. Special Issue: Twenty-Five Years of Healthy Communities: Part 1, Volume 102, Issue 4, pages 4–9, Winter 2013

The Winter 2013 issue of the National Civic Review is devoted to Healthy Cities and Healthy Communities. Edited by Tyler Norris, this issue features articles from a variety of key partners in the movement from the past 25 years. Tyler is a key player in the development and support for Healthy Cities and Healthy Communities in the USA and worldwide since the mid-1990s. The Healthy Cities approach and goals overlap significantly with community psychology, and many community psychologists have been engaged in healthy community initiatives (including myself).

This special issue features articles from many of the key persons involved in the implementation of the program in the US, and provides us with 22 articles describing the history, lessons learned, and vision for the future of the movement. The author list is a who's who of people intimately involved with the movement in the USA and internationally. The list includes Tyler Norris, Mary Pittman, Leandris Liburd, Mike McGinnis, James Kreiger, Joan Twiss, Judith Bell, Larry Cohen and others. Many of the articles are historical, but others focus on lessons learned. Several focus on key attributes and underlying best practices in the implementation of Healthy Cities and Communities. For us, as community psychologists, especially important might be the lead article by Tyler Norris. It not only frames the history of health cities movements since the mid-19th century, it provides us with additional conceptual and historical underpinning for our own work.

Healthy Cities is a movement begun in the early 1980's, mostly in European cities, and adopted by the World Health Organization as a formal program in 1986. The movement actually has roots in the 19th century, and is closely tied with the development of the National Civic League in the late 1800s. Rather than being programmatic, Healthy Cities and Communities focus on population health through the collection of population-level data, formation of boards and steering committees that are committed to resolving problems identified locally. Like the National Civic League and its founder Theodore Roosevelt, Healthy Cities is about civic participation in decision making, grassroots capacity building, and engagement of citizens in the development of healthier contexts.

Healthy Cities is now an integral part of all WHO Regions, and includes over 1,000 cities worldwide. A brief exerpt from the WHO Healthy Cities web site ( provides us with the vision and mission of the program:

"Healthy Cities are arguably the best-known and largest of the settings approaches. The programme is a long-term international development initiative that aims to place health high on the agendas of decision makers and to promote comprehensive local strategies for health protection and sustainable development. Basic features include community participation and empowerment, intersectoral partnerships, and participant equity.

"A Healthy City aims:

  • to create a health-supportive environment,

  • to achieve a good quality of life,

  • to provide basic sanitation & hygiene needs,

  • to supply access to health care.

"Being a Healthy City depends not on current health infrastructure, rather upon, a commitment to improve a city's environs and a willingness to forge the necessary connections in political, economic, and social arenas."

The complete issue is available from the National Civic League at It is freely available to the public.



Vincent T Francisco, PhD Vincent T Francisco, PhD

Dr. Vincent T Francisco is an Associate Professor of Community Health Education at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (USA), and Editor of the GJCPP. He was a member of the Board of Directors of the Coalition of Healthier Cities and Communities from 1998 through 2004.

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