On Wednesday, 10 May 2017, the Committee of the Regions, in collaboration with the World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe, organized a conference entitled “Health in cities: making it everyone’s business”.


This conference, conveyed by CoR Rapporteur Roberto Pella, prefigured the official voting of the opinion entitled “Health in cities: a common good”[1].


An opportunity for the Committee of the Regions and the European Commission to make a statement and emphasize on the role that cities can play in bringing about change for health and well-being of European citizens.


As the urban population continues to grow, the challenges facing cities in the next 20-30 years are set to be increasingly important but nevertheless exciting. It echoes Sport and Citizenship’s PASS project findings about the physical activity crisis and its economic consequences (inactivity represents a cost of 80 billion euros per year in the EU). More importantly, it relates to the idea that cities and local authorities have been somewhat overlooked in the fight against sedentarity. It is an area that deserves particular attention because:

  • It has been almost ignored by researchers of physical activity;
  • It represents a local level of administration that is much closer to the actual delivery of physical activity policies than the national level.


As part of this conference, Mr. Pella invited representatives of the different Directorate Generals of the European Commission which collaborated on the initiative. The document highlights the role of cities under the prism of 5 themes:

– urban planning,- sustainable mobility / public transport,- environment,- sport,- governance WHO Europe, co-organizer of the event, represented by Christoph Hamelmann, Regional Team Leader for Health and Development in Europe, Central Asia and the Arab States, recalled that half of Humanity lives in cities, while the cities occupy only 3% of the Earth’s surface. It is therefore necessary to create a viable environment for the populations living there. He recalled the objectives set by the WHO in its 2020 agenda to achieve the ultimate goal of health and well-being for all. Health is at the heart of this agenda. Equally important to Sport and Citizenship is the concept of “Active Cities”. This is about making our cities more competitive. It is about helping European cities prioritize physical activity to finally gain benefits from it, be it financial, human or social. It is about activating schools, parks, companies, sports clubs, families and transport.


In terms of mobility, Piotr Rapacz, coordinator for Urban Mobility within the DG Mobility and Transport, stressed the need to accelerate the development of active modes of transport (cycling and walking). The “Declaration on Cycling” of 7 October 2015 goes in that direction; Yves le Lostecque, Head of the Sport Unit within DG for Education and Culture, reported on the alarming levels of sport practices in Europe, recalling that 59% never practiced sport or physical activity. He also stressed that we need to innovate, invest in parks, invest in recreational sports. Cities are the central actors for this.


Indeed, the shape, the size of the city should not be obstacles.  This conference therefore highlighted the need to develop synergies and improve collaboration between the actors who have a role to play in this field. The city has and will have challenges to overcome, but it has a role to play in the health and well-being of the city. Transversal collaboration is needed today to break the silos and unleash the potential of physical activity and sport for cities.



[1] Opinion factsheet, European Committee of the Regions,

Sport et citoyenneté