Health ministry gets five WHO certificates for ‘healthy cities’

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Dr. Hani Jokhdar, deputy minister for public health, receivs the "Health City" certificates for Unaizah and Riyadh Al-Khabra from Dr. Ahmed Al-Mandhari, WHO regional director for the Eastern Mediterranean. — Courtesy photo

Saudi Gazette report

RIYADH —
Since 1998, Saudi Arabia has adopted the implementation of the World Health Organization (WHO)'s Healthy Cities Program (HCP).

Consequently, the country has registered 30 cities through multiple stages. Tremendous efforts were exerted, and to-date, five cities have been awarded the WHO certifications. This led to increased momentum amongst all cities in the program to achieve the same goal for a healthier population.

Most "Healthy Cities" in Saudi Arabia are provided with the infrastructure criteria through government services. In 2016, the program flourished as the Saudi Vision 2030 was introduced. The program aligned smoothly with the vision through different perspectives, including the 'Quality of Life' initiative and its desired goals, increasing life span, community participation and diversity of green landscaping. It is also aligned with the reduction of unemployment rates initiative. Collectively, the government is targeting to have three Saudi cities listed amongst the best 100 livable cities in the world.

Community participation has noticeably increased in local decision-making processes. Community members, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector are engaged in promoting "Healthy Cities" to play a role in societal decision-making to best utilize the cities resources.

HCP effectively contributes to international conferences and forums in order to represent the Kingdom as a model of success in the WHO EMRO region; its participation in Sharjah, Kuwait, Oman, and Belfast are a few examples. The program has also conducted several fruitful initiatives on a city-scale. These initiatives have targeted all segments of society and have served educational, environmental, health and economic purposes.

The program aims to improve public health to facilitate and boost the implementation of other health-related campaigns, events, and programs in the cities. Campaigns such as the collaboration with the Tobacco Control Program resulted in tobacco-free cities. In addition, HCP criteria greatly overlap with the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This has granted the program a higher priority on the national agenda.


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