City Health International


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


Monday, July 29, 2019
I write this on a day when London is experiencing, what is for us, exceptional temperatures. Overhead power lines and train tracks have warped. On some routes passengers have been advised to avoid travelling if possible, and many employers have encouraged staff to work from home. I suspect many who did travel to their workplaces were drawn by the prospect of effective air conditioning as much as personal work ethic. This great City was unusually quiet, apart from the pubs and bars who were doing a roaring trade. Who would begrudge people a pint of beer or a glass of wine when it’s so damn warm, especially when by delaying travelling an hour or two, the journey home may be made a little more tolerable?
Tuesday, July 16, 2019
Last week I met with someone who, having just completed a Masters in Epidemiology, is keen to work in the health field. Over a hot chocolate I outlined my perception of the current big issues relating to substance misuse, our most vulnerable populations and the policies and structures we have in place to address these issues.
Tuesday, July 02, 2019
Absolutely outstanding. That’s my carefully considered assessment of the Global Forum on Nicotine in Warsaw that I was fortunate enough to attend two weeks back. I say this despite the mosquito bites and the fact that the weather was rather warm for me. The event was one of those that provide a buzz and an energy that comes back to the workplace with you. This was fuelled by an outstanding array of speakers and a vibrant audience mix. Discussion and argument were not limited to the auditorium or breakout rooms, but instead could be heard throughout the venue, over lunch, during coffee breaks. There were attendees from every continent (well, ok, I didn’t actually meet anyone from Antarctica). Academics, clinicians, researchers, harm reduction advocates, retailers, product developers, policymakers, and- most importantly - vapers and users of other tobacco harm reduction products, all mixed together sharing views, experiences, and- as we should expect- differences of opinion. It certainly lived up to the conference strapline Its Time to Talk About Nicotine and the rich promise of a genuinely horizontal approach.
Monday, May 27, 2019
The value of partnership approaches and joint working to tackle major health public policy issues is widely accepted, if more rarely practised. Even where there is engagement with other professions or disciplines there is a tendency to work with those whose outlook is not too challenging and are closest to us in practice and approach. City Health has been at the forefront in challenging this and others are also working to weaken the silo walls. In the last two weeks I have been a spectator and a participant in two very different events which highlighted how important it is to include the end user, the public, our communities when developing and delivering services.



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.