Harnessing community participation on urban health
15 February 2012 - “What I gathered while listening intently on WHO Kobe Centre’s (WKC) orientation of its pillars was the prime importance of harnessing and supporting community participation with government support, especially in the urban context where I think the sense of community spirit is affected by the urban infrastructure”, expressed Dr Hirofumi Ando , the President of the Asian Urban Information Center of Kobe (AUICK).
Dr Ando, AUICK staff and representatives from four AUICK associate cities (Chennai, India; Surabaya, Indonesia; Olongapo, Philippines and Danang (Vietnam) had a 2-hour site visit at WKC, Kobe, Japan on 14 February 2012 as part of AUICK 2012 Preliminary Action Plan Dissemination Meeting. The objectives of the site visit were to: 1) orient participants on the mandate and activities of WKC; 2) discuss principles of urban health emergency management; 3) present tips on planning for preparedness and response to urban health emergencies; and 4) provide inputs on WHO programme on reproductive health (adolescent reproductive health and HIV/AIDS).
Mr Alex Ross, the Director of WKC, welcomed meeting delegates with sincere appreciation of current and future synergistic working relationship between WKC and AUICK. Next, Mr Amit Prasad, Technical Officer, WKC, introduced the area of work on urban health metrics with inputs on Urban Health Equity Assessment and Response Tool (Urban HEART) and the need for multi-stakeholder engagement; the urban health observatory; and global-national-local work on ageing and health issues. This was followed by a presentation on urban health governance by Mr Loic Garçon, Technical Officer, WKC with inputs on the 2010 “Kobe Call to Action”, smoke-free cities (12 steps to make your city smoke-free), intersectoral action on health and healthy urban planning.
Dr Arturo Pesigan, Technical Officer, WKC, highlighted urbanization as a driving force on health and development as well as on emergencies and disasters. He explained the persistent dichotomy of myths and realities in disaster situations. For example, it is a myth that “epidemics and plagues are inevitable after every disaster”. The reality is that “epidemics do not spontaneously occur after a disaster and dead bodies will not lead to catastrophic outbreaks of exotic diseases. The key to preventing disease is to improve sanitary conditions and educate the public”. http://www.who.int/hac/techguidance/ems/myths/en/. He provided tips on how to make cities resilient to emergencies and disasters.
The WKC orientation was completed with the presentation of Dr Jostacio M. Lapitan, Technical Officer, WKC, who provided an overview of adolescent sexual and reproductive health and HIV/AIDS – a topic requested by AUICK. Dr Lapitan highlighted that: 1) one in five individuals in the world today is an adolescent; 2) young people are leading the HIV prevention revolution; and 3) there is a compelling need to strengthen the evidence base for action and to apply the evidence-based interventions at scale - globally-locally.
Answers given to the question on how to strengthen the evidence base for action on adolescent reproductive health in order to reveal not only the tip of the iceberg were: 1) to work for zero discrimination aligning to the call of World AIDS Day 2011 “getting to zero”; 2) to facilitate effective and sustained communication with adolescents; and 3) to obtain the felt issues, needs and solutions from adolescents themselves which can be incorporated into the city plans.
In closing, Mr Ross expressed his thanks to all meeting delegates and on behalf of AUICK, Dr Dharani from the Corporation of Chennai, India, likewise expressed her gratitude for the warm welcome, the site visit and informative-lively WKC orientation.
1 Dr Hirofumi Ando is currently a member of the Scientific and Technical Advisory Group, Department of Reproductive Health and Research, WHO HQ and former Deputy Executive Director, UNFPA. Mr Tatsuo Yada, Mayor of Kobe City, is the Chairman of AUICK.