On 14th-16th April 2021, the World Health Organisation’s Regional Office for Europe organized a three-day workshop on urban design for health, during which several stakeholders discussed how urban design could promote healthy lifestyles and encourage individuals to be more physically active.
In her introductory speech, Dr Nino Berdzuli, WHO Europe’s Director of the Country Health Programmes Division, explained that the aim of the workshop was to inspire and incentivize better urban design which promotes physical activity and healthy diets to reduce the impact of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) such as obesity and type 2 diabetes. Dr Carina Ferreira-Borges, WHO Europe’s Head of Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases, reminded the audience that 90% of all deaths in the European region are linked to NCDs. She added that these diseases are often times preventable, and frequently linked to poor diet and lack of exercise. 
Subsequently, Dr Kremlin Wickramasinghe, WHO Europe’s Regional Advisor for Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity, underlined how urbanization can contribute to a decrease in NCDs by promoting and encouraging healthier lifestyles. However, there are many inequalities and it is important to work with all sectors. All stakeholders emphasized how NCDs are one of the main public health problems for the years to come in Europe and that the prevalence of NCDs is increasing because of sedentary behaviours, unhealthy diets, and lack of physical activity.  
During the course of the workshop, attendees had the opportunity to discuss urban design ideas and local initiatives such as apps, fitness trails within cities, or the accessibility of sports infrastructure.
You can find more information about WHO Europe’s work on NCD prevention here.
Apr 22, 2021 By Pauline Joskin