By accelerating impactful action in cities, we can unlock a future where fewer people are living with chronic diseases such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes. 

The burden of chronic diseases, including obesity, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, is increasing every year in all regions of the world.1-3 In the face of this challenge, working to prevent chronic diseases from occurring in the first place is the only sustainable way forward.

Addressing their shared risk factors can improve population health and overcome health inequities in our cities. Shaping healthy environments in which people are born, grow, work, live and age is key to creating opportunities for healthy living.

The potential to enhance health in urban areas is vast. With more than half of the global population residing in cities, a figure expected to rise to around 70% by 2050,​4 there is a pressing need for a concentrated effort at the city level to address health disparities and enhance overall well-being.

Urban spaces serve as hubs where numerous stakeholders who have an impact on communities' health are based. Beyond traditional healthcare entities, these stakeholders encompass private sector firms, governmental bodies, philanthropic organisations, employers and civil society groups.

By bringing together these stakeholders and harnessing their combined influence, cities can instigate significant transformations and elevate health outcomes for their inhabitants.

Johannesburg, South Africa

Almost 1 in 5 children and adolescents are living with overweight or obesity.5 Childhood obesity sets the stage for the early onset of chronic diseases like diabetes and heart conditions, with risks escalating over time.5 Ending childhood obesity is pivotal to securing a healthier future and reversing the trend of chronic diseases to the benefit of society at large. 


International Diabetes Federation (IDF). IDF Diabetes Atlas. 2021.


World Obesity Foundation (WOF). World Obesity Atlas 2023. 2023. 


World Bank. Urban Development. Accessed March, 2024.​


World Health Organization (WHO). Factsheet: Obesity and overweight. Updated June 2021. Accessed February, 2022.