Minister of Public Health of Qatar Her Excellency Dr Hanan Mohammed Al Kuwari on Tuesday inaugurated the three-day Eastern Mediterranean Region Healthy Cities Conference 2023, organised by the Ministry of Public Health and the World Health Organization (WHO).

The opening ceremony was attended by WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean Dr Ahmed Al Mandhari and senior officials and representatives of 15 countries of the region.

Being held under the theme ‘Healthy Cities: A Multisectoral Approach to Health and Well-being’, the conference will feature 43 local and international expert speakers with about 1,300 participants are expected to attend both in person and online over the 3 days.

Speaking at the event, Dr Kuwari said, “Qatar works to promote the health and well-being of the population and achieve sustainability, guided by the wise vision of the Amir His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and to achieve the Qatar National Vision (QNV) 2030. The Healthy Cities programme serves the country’s efforts in this regard, and we are proud that Qatar is the first country where all municipalities received the title of Healthy City from the World Health Organization, in addition to Qatar Foundation’s Education City being recognised as a Healthy Education City and Qatar University as a Healthy University.”

The minister stressed how the Healthy Cities approach aims to make health a priority for cities by promoting health, equity and sustainable development.

She added, “Qatar has adopted this approach and translated it into strategic initiatives, policies and best practices by following the ‘Health in All Policies’ strategic priority and with close cooperation between various sectors in the country. We are pleased that through this conference we can exchange knowledge and experiences with other countries of the Eastern Mediterranean Region and with WHO Healthy City Networks across various regions.”

Dr Kuwari also expressed confidence that the strengthening of Healthy Cities movement will contribute to enhancing cooperation in advancing urban health strategies in the region to promote health and well-being.

On his part, Dr Mandhari reiterated the Healthy Cities programme’s important role in creating a multisectoral platform for health promotion and well-being.

“Healthy Cities can contribute to accelerate the achievement of our regional and global objectives and our progress towards the health-related Sustainable Development Goals. They can also contribute to combat noncommunicable diseases and support the regional implementation of the new ‘Global framework for integrating well-being into public health utilising a health promotion approach’,” he said.

He added, “The programme has made remarkable progress in the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region, with the Regional Healthy Cities Network expanding dramatically, from 64 cities in 11 countries in 2019 to 111 cities in 15 countries in 2023. To make Healthy Cities a reality, planning must consider both the challenges and the opportunities, in line with the regional vision of ‘Health for All by All’.”

He thanked Qatar’s Ministry of Public Health for co-organising the conference, which serves as inspiration to other WHO Member States to support the expansion of Healthy Cities within and across the region’s countries.

In the keynote address, Professor Sir Michael Marmot, director of the UCL Institute of Health Equity, University College London, spoke about Healthy Cities as a multisectoral platform to address the social determinants of health.

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