Global leaders agree to promote health in order to achieve SDGs

21 NOVEMBER 2016 | SHANGHAI – Leaders from governments and United Nations organizations, city chiefs, and health experts from around the world today made 2 landmark commitments to promote public health and eradicate poverty.

The 9th Global conference on health promotion, co-organized by WHO and the National Health and Family Planning Commission of the People’s Republic of China in Shanghai on 21–24 November, has agreed:

  • The Shanghai Declaration on Health Promotion, which commits to make bold political choices for health, stressing the links between health and wellbeing and the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals.
  • The Shanghai Healthy Cities Mayors’ Consensus, which contains a commitment by more than 100 mayors to advance health through improved management of urban environments.

WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan says underpinning these commitments is the need for government action that protects people from health risks, provides access to healthy choices and spreads awareness of how to be and stay healthy.

Dr Chan adds: “Legislative and fiscal measures are among the most effective interventions that governments – national and city – can take to promote the health of their citizens, from tobacco control and taxing sugary drinks to ensuring people can breathe clean air, bike home safely and walk to school or work without fear of violence.”

The Declaration

The Declaration highlights the need for people to be able to control their own health – to be in a position to make healthy lifestyle choices. Noting the need for political action across many different sectors and regions, it highlights the role of good governance and health literacy in improving health, as well as the critical role played by city authorities and communities.

Governance-related commitments include protecting health through public policies, strengthening legislation, regulation and taxation of unhealthy commodities and implementing fiscal policies to enable new investments in health and wellbeing. The Declaration also stresses the importance of universal health coverage, and the need to better address cross-border health issues.

Health literacy pledges include the development of national and local strategies to improve citizens’ awareness of how to live healthy lives, and increasing citizens’ ability to control their own health and its determinants by harnessing the power of digital technology. The Declaration also commits to ensure that environments support healthy consumer choices, for example through pricing policies, transparent information and clear labeling.

The Declaration emphasizes the need for healthy urban policies that promote social inclusion, issues that are further strengthened in the Mayors’ Consensus.

Mayors’ Consensus

Cities are already home to over 50% of the world’s population, and this is expected to increase to two thirds by 2030, making them a particularly important focus. The Mayors’ Consensus listed 10 action areas that municipal leaders attending the Conference will integrate into their cities’ plans to implement the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Key areas include addressing pollution, gender-based violence, child development and making cities smoke-free.

The mayors agreed to integrate health as a core consideration in all city policies; to promote community engagement through multiple platforms, including schools, workplaces and modern technology, to advance health; and to reorient municipal health and social services towards equity and universal health coverage.

Editors’ note

The Shanghai event marks the 30th anniversary of the first global conference, held in Canada, which delivered the landmark Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion. The Ottawa Charter made clear the need for political commitment, action and investment to address health and equity, and that the health sector alone could not ensure people attain the highest level of health.

More than 1000 people are participating in the Shanghai Conference, including the Prime Minister of China, more than 40 ministers of health and other sectors, heads of five United Nations agencies and over 100 city mayors. Hundreds of international health experts are also taking part in events dealing with a diverse array of subjects.