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Welcome to my initial blog for City Health International. My intention over the coming months is to look at developments in research, politics and the media through the prism of urban health and what it may mean for the City Health community (so pretty much anyone reading this). While my background is in national and regional policy work around substance misuse, with a more recent interest in crime and anti-social behaviour issues, I will be looking at a much broader range of topics. Before we embark on that though I shall briefly explain how I got involved with the phenomenon that is City Health and how that helped extend my horizons beyond alcohol and drugs.

In many ways I blame the Olympics, as much, if not more, than Professor Gerry Stimson and Paddy Costall. If London hadn’t been the host City in 2012 I would not have been so enthusiastic about hosting the first City Health International (CHI) conference. While I enjoy welcoming people to London and showing off the medieval Guildhall. Over the previous years I had run at least 20 major events looking at differing aspects of drug and alcohol use. Anyone who has organised a major event will be aware of the amount of work and stress involved.

In general, the drug and alcohol field tend to gather in groups of like- minded individuals with similar interests and experiences. It can be comforting, but is rarely challenging, and often the time and resource involved seems poorly rewarded in terms of impact. But it is safe. Other sectors follow this pattern.

The concept for City Health was clearly something a bit different, a bit less safe, a little more risky. It also had a real appeal, presenting an opportunity to break down the rigid, yet comfortable, silos we tend to inhabit. The timing also felt right, with a tangible interest in learning from other cities. The time seemed ripe for fresh thinking and approaches that considered problems and responses in context, not isolation. Fortunately, my fears were not realised. We had two days of outstanding presentations with their quality being matched by the breadth of subjects covered and the global perspectives provided. Yet all held together by common threads of the role of urban centres in helping improve health for citizens, often with a focus on the most vulnerable and disadvantaged.

Relief was matched by excitement, it all felt much more vibrant than the average conference, not just a one off or the annual gathering of a professional group, all affirming how right they were. It was quickly apparent that City Health was going to have to carry on. There was an appetite for this type of event, that could provide a focus for a variety of backgrounds, disciplines and experiences to come together to present, discuss and most certainly, on occasion, to argue.

Six conferences on and with the next event being held in Odessa (13-14 September) there remains a huge reservoir of energy and learning to tap into and share. It would be wonderful if you were able to participate in City Health 2018 (all those who attend are participants – City Health doesn’t do passive attendance!) but I would also invite you to contribute to this blog. City Health International is not a series of one off events but a year-round global community of interested individuals united behind a common interest to improve health. I look forward to sharing my thoughts and observations in the coming weeks and months.

David MacKintosh

Wednesday, April 01, 2020
Everything is changed. COVID-19 and responses to it have seen dramatic and fundamental changes to how life is lived around the globe. International travel has come to a near complete halt, much of the world is under some form of lock down with businesses, schools, shops, pubs and cafes shut. Our economic and social reality is now unrecognisable from that of only weeks ago.
Tuesday, March 10, 2020
Clearly the current health focus is strongly centred on Covid- 19 and related issues, as it has been for the past few weeks. It is a demanding situation for politicians, officials, and indeed all of us, especially those working in our healthcare system. One of the major challenges we face is increasing understanding and encouraging changes in behaviour, while also avoiding panic and overreaction. Trusted and accurate information is clearly essential, both for those who have a key role and for the general public. We are certainly seeing more of England’s Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Adviser in the media than usual. In the current situation, politicians are not only keen to hear from experts, but also happy to let them step into the spotlight. While we still see sensationalist headlines, there are also visible benefits of this approach, with more measured and informed elements within the media coverage- though this is less evident on the outer reaches of the online universe. Before I move on to other topics, let us reflect on the significant additional pressures being placed on our frontline health providers. They deserve our gratitude and, in many instances, much improved terms and conditions. Let’s hope that when this coronavirus issue passes the staff that so many rely on are not overlooked.
Monday, February 10, 2020
Public health is front and centre of the media currently, with concerns about the coronavirus outbreak, which was first identified in the Chinese city of Wuhan, splashed across almost every front page. With confirmed cases now reported in numerous countries across the world, we face the possibility of a pandemic. As several experts and commentators have pointed out, in our modern, highly interconnected world no epidemic remains a local concern. This, of course, makes for frightening headlines- which, in turn, calls for calm and informed responses.
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!

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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.