The 75th World Health Assembly has adopted a resolution on “Strengthening health emergency preparedness and response in cities and urban settings”. It is a critical milestone, because it recognizes the important role that cities and local authorities have in preventing, preparing for, and responding to health emergencies. The resolution urges member states to give due attention to preparedness and response to health emergencies in cities and urban settings, recognizing their unique vulnerabilities. It requests the Director-General of WHO to provide technical support to strengthen capacities and capabilities in urban health emergency preparedness and response.
With this resolution, a special focus is put on cities for several reasons:
- international cities have become hotspots of pandemics, as a result of globalized travel and trade
- urban health conditions might be predeterminant to the capacity to handle the consequences of a pandemic
Increased investment to strengthen capacities and capabilities related to urban health services – including health emergency preparedness and response – is essential for the future.
Hopefully, governments will make important moves towards more effective coordination between global, national and local levels. The framework for strengthening health emergency preparedness in cities and urban settings and the operational guidance for national and local authorities are key documents to achieve our common goal. We could already imagine a next push to involve local and regional authorities in decision-making – following a multi-sectoral, multi-stakeholder approach.