Welcome to the website of “Brussels Healthy City Region”! The project is now integrated in the Brussels-Capital Health and Social Observatory.

The Healthy Cities, a WHO programme


In 1977, the World Health Organization adopted a so-called strategy of health for everyone, with the aim of providing health services to all people of the world, enabling them to lead a socially and economically productive life. In 1986 the WHO suggested cities to adopt this strategy, creating the 'Healthy Cities' programme. Since then, the network of 'Healthy Cities' has been growing steadily.

Health: the WHO definition

'Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without the distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition.' (WHO Constitution, June 1946).

What is a Healthy City?

A Healthy City is a city that continually creates and improves its physical and social environments and expands the community resources that enable people to mutually support each other in performing all the functions of life and developing to their maximum potential. More here.

A healthy city aims to provide:

1. A clean, safe physical environment of high quality (including housing quality)

2. An ecosystem that is stable now and sustainable in the long term

3. A strong, mutually supportive and non-exploitative community

4. A high degree of participation in and control by the citizens over the decisions affecting their lives, health and well-being

5. The meeting of basic needs (food, water, shelter, income, safety and work)

6. Access to a wide variety of experiences and resources

7. A diverse, vital and innovative local economy

8. A connectedness with the past

9. A city structure that is compatible with and enhances the preceding characteristics

10. An optimum level of public health services, accessible to all

11. Priority for health and well-being

The foundations of health for all are the following:

1. To ensure the prerequisites for health are fulfilled

2. To diminish inequality

3. To encourage participation

4. To prevent avoidable illnesses and handicaps and to lower the number of accidents

5. To develop and maintain an environment and lifestyle favouring health

The phases

The first three phases of the project took place between 1987 and 2002. Brussels joined the network of Healthy Cities at the end of the third phase. After the Zagreb Declaration, the WHO network of Healthy Cities entered its fifth phase. Each accreditation for a phase is subject to evaluation by the WHO before and after the work period. In November 2010 Brussels was granted its accreditation for the fifth phase.

The first phase (1987-1992) concentrated on the propagation of innovative concepts on urban health, the creation of new organisational structures enabling changes, and the introduction of new working methods: collaboration between different structures, activity sectors and the population.

The second phase (1993-1997) mainly focused on political actions around public health and the elaboration of global urban health plans. These projects defined specific objectives in domains such as social justice and sustainable development.

The main challenge for cities in the third phase (1998-2002) was the transition between the promotion of health and a true multi-sectoral approach to health. Specific selected priorities included the preparation of tools and tips to elaborate and apply policies, the development of urbanism for health, assessments and follow-up actions.

The fourth phase (2003-2008) was based on two elements: investments in healthcare developments and working on central themes together with the European Regional WHO Office:

-  Urbanism favouring health (inciting urban planners to integrate sanitary conditions in their strategies and planning initiatives, with a particular focus on social justice, well-being, liveable developments and collective safety)

-  Assessments of effects on health (intensification of intersectoral actions aimed at promoting health and reducing inequality through a combination of approaches, methods and tools)

-  Growing old healthy (attend to the needs of elderly people in terms of health, care and quality of life)

The fifth phase (2009-2013) defines priorities in the Zagreb Declaration and focuses on three core themes:

1. Caring and supportive environments.
A Healthy City is a city for all its citizens: one that takes into account, supports, understands and fulfils their various needs and expectations.

2. Healthy living.
A Healthy City manages conditions and opportunities favouring, enabling and stimulating a healthy lifestyle for its population, regardless of age or social status.

3. Healthy urban planning.
A Healthy City offers a physical environment and buildings that fulfil the needs of all its citizens. Such an environment favours, enables and stimulates health, recreation and well-being, safety, social interaction, accessibility and mobility, and a feeling of pride and cultural identity.

To handle these themes, Healthy Cities commit themselves to:

-  make health, fairness in health, social justice and sustainable development core values in the vision of the development of cities, and introduce suitable processes to assess their effects on health and to ensure the reinforcement of capacities to allow all sectors to maximise their contribution towards this goal;

-  encourage ethical governance through value-based policies and strategies, whilst stimulating it through efficient mechanisms for transparency and accountability;

-  exploit the leading position in the civic domain to gather all the organisational means, partners and intervening entities;

-  ead by example and raise awareness through active promotion, about health and fairness in health, in all local policies and action plans launched by the public sector, the corporate sector and the voluntary sector;

-  promote integrated and systematic approaches with specific objectives and measurable results, when appropriate, in order to achieve the changes in terms of health and institutions that will facilitate interdisciplinary and intersectoral work.

Find out more about the WHO:

and about the WHO network of the Healthy Cities:

Find out more about the WHO Regional Offices in Europe:

and about the WHO European Healthy Cities Network :

S2D, Centre Collaborateur de l’OMS pour les Villes-Santé:

in Africa:

in the Americas:

in the Eastern Mediterranean:

in Southeast Asia:

in the Western Pacific: http: