City Health International


Let me start with a big thank you to Liverpool, and especially the team from John Moores University, for another outstanding City Health conference. The impressive surroundings of Liverpool Medical Institute- a monument to the 19th century’s commitment to science as well as its obsession with ancient Greece- proved to be an ideal venue. It contains a wonderful historic library, a selection of surgical and medical tools that bring a tear to the eye, and portraits of those who have contributed to the development of public health and modern health care, including some rather fearsome looking characters.

Under their steely gaze the 8th City Health Conference provided a wide ranging and mentally stimulating day. While a number of scheduled contributors had to pull out due to ill health, attendees were treated to excellent presentations in plenary and parallel sessions. There were also some very impressive poster presentations (the quality of these improves year on year). Inevitably, everyone will have had their own views on which sessions they found most interesting, engaging, or thought provoking. However, I am sure many will have been impressed by Jim McVeigh’s presentation entitled Public Health – heroes, villains and others. Top Trumps was a popular game when I was a kid. You could compete with your friends to compare everything from buses, to motorcars, to football teams. But I don’t believe anyone has previously considered some of our leading public health figures in this way! Beyond the entertainment aspect, it did allow for a degree of reflection on what really has a positive impact, and who has helped to make the major impacts.

This presentation, and that of Dr Hannah Timpson, also raised the issue of the doughnut effect in cities. Liverpool is far from unique in having seen regeneration create a situation where much of the population is moved out from the centre. In many cases now we see the well-off moving back into City centres, often enjoying riverside redevelopment. Those on lower incomes tend to remain located beyond the ring roads, or in some cases, satellite towns, which often experience many of the problems traditionally associated with urban centres but possess little of their vitality. This was the first time I recall hearing the expression” decanting ill-health”, but it accurately reflects what I have seen in London and elsewhere. Regeneration is vital for cities; it has seen many cities transformed. Liverpool is a great example, but when problems of poverty, and its attendant sins, are moved out of the centre I wonder how much harder it is to attract the resources to tackle the underlying causes? Perhaps we need to start incentivising our urban planners and their colleagues to consider addressing these human issues where they are rather than just moving them to the outskirts or into another municipal area. Regeneration surely needs to be about more than shiny shopping centres and revamped heritage sites?

One of the things that struck me most was the exploration of things that didn’t work and why. And of how well-intentioned actions get in the way of good outcomes. I have been involved in several activities which, in hindsight, it would have been better to have never started. Possibly a topic here for a future blog, but the sage advice I picked up was that sometimes its as important what you don’t do as much as what you do. Certainly, it can sometimes be very hard to resist the demands that “something must be done” when we have yet to really understand or consider the problem before us.

The morning also saw a very moving and powerful presentation, involving a degree of acting, on changes over the last 200 years in terms of support for those with mental health or learning disabilities. Anita Maestri-Banks and Denise Parker deserve great credit for their efforts in reminding us of how often and easily people within these groups are neglected. The presentation is on the City Health website and it provides an interesting perspective on the impact of urbanisation and changes in attitudes.

Other highlights for me included some interesting and innovative practice around reducing the harms caused by alcohol. The work being undertaken in Liverpool to reduce intoxication was especially interesting given the positive engagement of licensed venues in the work. It was a valuable reminder that a pragmatic approach and a willingness to work with other stakeholders can produce demonstrable gains. The work of Sefton Council and the Public Health Institute (part of LMJ) demonstrated that some individuals and areas are acting in response to the record numbers of drug related deaths in the UK. This kind of approach is essential if we are to better understand the steps needed to prevent these tragedies: they are resource intensive, but the rewards are significant.

Violence, trauma, and public approaches are regular media fodder currently, but the presentation by Nikhil Misra was outstanding in proving context and the reality of serious injury. Trauma is the most common cause of death for those aged 1-40 in the UK. For every death two other people will suffer a permanent disability. Gun and knife related injuries were significant problems but so are falls (specific personal learning points include ill-fitting footwear and wandering around at night without lights on), and road traffic accidents. Improving the quality and use of data can be a powerful force to help develop prevention initiatives. A lot here for colleagues in local public health and community safety to consider.

City Health events conclude, just like the Olympics, with a handover to the next host, Melbourne, for City Health Australia over 3rd and 4th October. It is an innovation for CHI to run two conferences in a year, this reflects the global interest in the issues and unique approach to discussion and information sharing that it has developed since 2012. Time to start working on those submissions for presentations and posters!






Monday, September 09, 2019
With City Health 2019 in Melbourne now only weeks away, a headline in the papers caught my eye. According to the annual Global Liveability Index- whose criteria include stability, healthcare, culture, education, environment, and infrastructure- the Austrian capital Vienna narrowly beats Melbourne to the top spot. Of course, such rankings are open to debate and dependent on what you choose to measure but it’s fair to say the occupants of city halls take a degree of pride in seeing “their” cities topping the charts.
Monday, September 02, 2019
This is not the blog I was planning to write. My intention was to look at developments in managing the Night Time Economy across a number of cities, an area where there is innovation and positive developments. Instead I feel compelled to look at an issue where the UK and others are demonstrably going backwards. Battles we thought had been won in fact appear lost, progress has not just stalled but been significantly reversed. It poses hard questions for many organisations and for individuals, including myself. So, come with me as I look at drug related deaths.
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.



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.