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What an excellent event the City Health 2018 conference proved to be. The seventh edition since the inaugural event at the Guildhall in the City of London in 2012 each subsequent has added to the knowledge and breadth which makes this such a fascinating and unique undertaking. The city of Odesa were great hosts and combined with the tremendous efforts of the organisers nearly 250 participants from over 20 countries gathered to discuss how we can develop healthy responses during this period of unprecedented change and challenge.

It was a great pleasure to meet so many people committed to improving urban health and be exposed to so many examples of great work. There were also some incredibly stimulating and thoughtful presentations and inputs, not just from speakers but also members of the audience. While I can’t pretend the travelling (especially the rather tight transfer times) were anything other than tiring City Health has done a wonderful job of recharging my batteries and energising me to consider how I can make use of what I have learned in Odesa and apply it and share it with colleagues in London. It certainly reminded me that many colleagues around the world face a level of challenge in delivering evidence-based approaches that some of us struggle to imagine. Also, this blog will continue, not least because 2019 will see two City Health events!

The first of these will see City Health hosted by Liverpool John Moores University on 22 March. Liverpool is not just a city with an important maritime history or being famous as being the home of The Beatles, it also enjoys a long influential history of innovation around public health, having been the first city in England to appoint a Medical Officer of Health in the mid-19th century. More recently it has also been at the forefront of developments relating to harm reduction in relation to drug use and has led much of the work in trying to improve safety in the night time economy. Get the date in your calendar now. The other City Health event is to be held in Australia in September. While exact dates are yet to be confirmed this will be a great opportunity to take City Health beyond the confines of Europe and engage with a broader range of cities. Australia has, of course, often led global developments in terms of pragmatic and humane responses to problems associated with drug use. Though in terms of the current position relating to tobacco harm reduction it perhaps reminds us that no country has a monopoly on wisdom, or that previous victories mean there are not further battles to be fought in helping our most vulnerable communities. I very much hope you are able to participate or engage in one or other of these events.

Let me return to the recent conference in Odesa. The quality of speakers and presentations was outstanding. Reflecting the ethos of City Health, the presentations are already available via the website but in addition many were filmed, and these will be added in the coming weeks. Some of the issues which caught my attention will be flagged in forthcoming blogs, but I must mention David Wilson, the World Bank’s Global HIV/AIDS Program Director, who delivered the Alison Chesney and Eddie Kiloran Memorial lecture. He provided a global and historic overview of current health challenges, highlighting the great gains achieved by improved nutrition, sanitation, vaccination and antibiotics. He then raised the question that given this why are we so many societies and individuals experiencing such anxiety? He then highlighted examples where drug and alcohol use coupled with rises in heart disease were seeing declines in health expectancy. Looking to the future he outlined the challenges posed by the current technological revolution and suggested we all need to start looking at the current and future challenges in health rather than continuing to fight the battles of the past. That poses a considerable challenge for us all.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020
So here we are: 2020. Let me start by wishing all of you the very best for the year ahead. I have, occasionally, been accused of an inclination toward cynicism and a failure to look on the bright side of things. So, for my first blog of the year, at least, I am going to be determinedly upbeat. You can judge for yourself how long it lasts. This sense of optimism is influenced by the fact that the end of 2019 saw some positive signs in the world of substance misuse. While it was something of a mad scramble against time, we managed to pull together a high quality and well-supported pan-London Christmas alcohol campaign. I am very grateful to colleagues who delivered the key elements of this work and to everyone who supported it. Some, in fact, went well beyond the call of duty to engage with our colleagues in the blue light services. Although we will not have any data in terms of its reach and impact for some months (I will update you), what I can confidently say is that many individuals and organisations liked the messaging and tone. I like to think it is helping contribute to Londoners having a more considered and healthier relationship with alcohol, though there is a way to go yet!
Wednesday, December 18, 2019
It has been a little while since I managed to produce a blog. Workwise things have been especially hectic as we end the year. Not least in helping get another London Christmas alcohol campaign organised. You can see the resource produced here . Early next year I will share our experience of this year’s campaign. Looking back 2019 has been a year when the headlines relating to drugs have been consistently negative. Record drug related deaths, some worrying prevalence data, growing concerns around crime and financial pressure on service delivery. On the positive side there is some sense that drug issues are getting back on to the agenda. Hopefully this will continue. A personal highlight of 2019 was getting to hear and speak with so many fascinating people at City Health Melbourne.
Wednesday, October 30, 2019
When I hosted the first City Health conference in 2012, my hope was we might manage three or four events in different cities. I never dreamt we’d get to nine (and counting) or that City Health would reach the great city of Melbourne. Great credit must go to the Progressive Public Health Alliance for hosting a fascinating two days that provided energy, enthusiasm and challenge. Personally, I learnt a great deal and found myself questioning somehow of my own views. I met people doing amazing things in the most challenging environments. I heard of situations that made me feel a sense of despair but came away reassured that we have the knowledge, networks and commitment to positively change lives for the better.
Monday, September 23, 2019
Sometimes things just work out. Last Monday, I was involved in three separate events which each highlighted the potential of urban areas to effectively tackle health issues when there is political leadership to do so. The day also provided a timely reminder of the importance of harm reduction, and how this needs to be at the heart of health approaches in our cities. With so many countries and agencies forgetting the lessons of harm reduction, or actively turning their back on them for narrow ideological reasons, it was uplifting to hear examples which delivered quantifiable gains in terms of lives, better health, and human rights.

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CITY HEALTH INTERNATIONAL EVENTS

CHI Melbourne 2019

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CHI Liverpool 2019

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CHI Odessa 2018

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CHI Basel 2017

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CHI London 2016

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CHI Barcelona 2015

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CHI Amsterdam 2014

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CHI Glasgow 2013

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CHI London 2012

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City Health International
Founded in 2012 City Health International is a network of individuals and organisations engaged in the study of and response to structural health issues and health behaviours in the urban environment.
For the first time in history the majority of the world’s population now live in urban environments and the proportion continues to grow. As national governments struggle to deal with the pressures and demands of growing urban populations against a backdrop of financial deficits and uncertainty, it is increasingly left to those working at a city level to provide the leadership and support needed to tackle key health issues.