World Health Day: 1000 Cities, 1000 Lives

Reading time: 2 – 4 minutes

Urbanization is one of the greatest health challenges facing with world in the 21st century. Today, over 3 billion people live in cities. Between 1995 and 2005, the urban population of developing countries grew by ~165,000 people every day [1]. In 2007, the world’s population living in cities actually surpassed 50% for the first time in history. As city populations around the world continue to grow, unplanned or mismanaged urbanization can have health security and safety consequences.


World Health Day is meant to draw worldwide attention to the theme of urbanization and health, and to engage governments, international organizations, businesses and civil society in a shared effort to place health at the center of urban policy. Thus, the 1000 Cities, 1000 Lives campaign for World Health Day 2010 calls upon cities during the week of April 7 — April 11 to open up portions of streets to promote health activities.

There are two goals to the campaign:

  • 1000 cities: to open up public spaces to health, whether it be activities in parks, town hall meetings, clean-up campaigns, or closing off portions of streets to motorized vehicles.
  • 1000 lives: to collect 1000 stories of urban health champions who have taken action and had a significant impact on health in their cities.

So far, 1,392 cities in 133 countries have joined the campaign, and have committed to closing off one or more streets to motor vehicles for a day this week and offering citizens a novel public space for physical exercise, meeting family, friends and community, health checks, eating healthy local food or visiting local attractions. In addition, many cities are organizing activities for children, holding town hall meetings with mayors and local governments to focus on local health concerns and sponsoring open street events.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends five calls to action to build a healthy and safe urban environment:

  • Promote urban planning for healthy behaviors and safety.
  • Improve urban living conditions.
  • Ensure participatory urban governance.
  • Build inclusive cities that are accessible and age-friendly.
  • Make urban areas resilient to emergencies and disasters.

You can join and support the global movement to make cities healthier by sharing photos, videos and event ideas at the 1000 cities – 1000 lives website.


  1. World Health Day 2010 Urban Health Matters: Toolkit for event organizers. 2010 Feb 9
About the Author

Walter Jessen is a senior writer for Highlight HEALTH Media.