Europe meets in İzmir

Almost 400 visitors from 97 cities of 37 European countries have convened in İzmir for Healthy Cities Europe Conference. Mayor Aziz Kocaoğlu, host of the event, frequently dwelled on the EXPO event in his address to the participants. Dr. Agis Tsouros, Director, WHO Regional Office for Europe, expressed that İzmir made a correct decision in choosing health as its EXPO theme, and they applaud İzmir for this decision.

Annual Business and Technical Conference of European Healthy Cities Network was opened in Ahmed Adnan Saygun Art Centre. This meeting expected to be an important move in İzmir's EXPO 2020 candidacy was attended by up to 400 visitors from 97 cities of 37 European countries. In his opening speech, Mayor Aziz Kocaoğlu, İzmir Metropolitan Municipality, remarked that İzmir has been one of the most important actors in health, art and trade throughout the history.

Pointing out that today, increasing urbanisation and intensive immigration made urban health and citizen health into one of the most important issues in the world, Mayor Kocaoğlu went on to say all adversities faced in this area can be resolved by providing a high standard of living to city dwellers and creating "Healthy Cities".

Mayor Aziz Kocaoğlu, İzmir Metropolitan Municipality, remarked that it is the goal of everyone around the world to create healthy and sustainable cities with high quality of life where people can enjoy life, and went on to add: “The most important keyword we will have to keep in mind on our way to this goal are, without a doubt, equality and sustainability. In order to eliminate inequalities between people, first we have to improve preschool education, employment and working conditions and minimise poverty. Of course, the concept of a healthy city is not limited to the quality of health services. It also encompasses improvement of physical, mental, social and environmental well-being of the people who live and work in the city. It includes ensuring all city dwellers can equally enjoy the opportunities provided by the city. It means providing all-inclusive, supportive opportunities which respond to different needs and expectations of citizens, and support healthy life-styles, social interaction, ease of access, mutual respect and cultural identities.”

A healthy city with a high quality of living
Mayor Aziz Kocaoğlu, İzmir Metropolitan Municipality, reminded that the duty to lead in health belongs to the Ministry of Health, and went on to add “However, as local government of İzmir, we know we also have important tasks and responsibilities in this area. Our goal is to enforce the power granted to us by the citizens of İzmir with equality and trust, and deliver its fruits as municipal services to the entire city, and to create a healthy and sustainable city with a high quality of living where people can freely enjoy life.”

Remarking that they are endeavouring to create opportunities which respond to different needs and expectations of citizens, and support healthy life-styles, Mayor Kocaoğlu went on to brief European visitors on İzmir's waste treatment investments, swimmable İzmir Bay goal, Eşrefpaşa Hospital, Municipality services targeted at senior and minor citizens, the Milk Project, and projects like vocational courses and craft courses.

Also touching on İzmir's EXPO candidacy, İzmir Metropolitan Municipality Mayor Başkanı Aziz Kocaoğlu said “This collaboration and harmony between the European cities who strive towards the same goal further increases our hopes for a better, more liveable world. Inequalities which lie under all problems will gradually disappear. We will achieve an equitable community and healthy living. Our children will look at the future with hope. We only need to believe from the heart and continue working with all sincerity, relentlessly, without falling to despair.”

City health atlas
Recep Altepe, Mayor of Bursa Metropolitan Municipality and Director of Healthy Cities Turkey Network, remarked they have prepared an atlas analysing the cities in regard of health, and briefed the guests on their 4-pronged efforts for improvement of urban health. Altepe said, “The scale of the task falling on the municipalities becomes clear when we compare the 75 percent urbanisation rating of Turkey with the 69 percent urbanisation rating observed in overall Europe.”

Turkish surprise
Zsuzsanna Yakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe, remarked that they became enamoured with the city as soon as they arrived and she considered applying for honorary citizenship, and went on to talk about Health 2020 efforts.
Dr. Agis Tsouros, Director, Division of Policy and Governance for Health and Well-being, WHO Regional Office for Europe, surprised the audience by delivering part of his speech in Turkish. Tsouros said, in Turkish, “Turkey is one of the most dynamic actors in health movement in Europe. We are thankful for the leading attitude and commitment you displayed in this field.”
Mayor Aziz Kocaoğlu had a family photo taken with conference guests at the end of opening ceremony.

Praises to İzmir
During the conference break, Dr. Tsouros held a press conference and made praising remarks on İzmir's choice of a health theme for its EXPO 2020 candidacy. Tsouros said, “It is a very good idea to choose health as a theme. I congratulate İzmir on this choice. We see reflections of Health 2020 in EXPO theme of İzmir. I believe Health 2020 and EXPO are very close. There are many parallels.”

Conference will continue for 3 days
The "European Healthy Cities Network Annual Business and Technical Conference" annually organised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for healthy cities and national networks is being hosted by İzmir Metropolitan Municipality this year. The theme of the conference, reflecting the principles, goals and approaches of "Health 2020", the new health policy and strategy of Europe, was determined as "Innovation Through Leadership and shared Governance for Health and Well-being". The conference will explore issues like health in all local policies, building resilient communities and economics of public health. The 3 days long conference will be held at Ahmet Adnan Saygun Art Centre. The European participants will have the opportunity to get to know İzmir more closely with the technical tours organised for this purpose.

400 visitors arrived
The meeting is being attended by mayors, senior administrators, project coordinators and Ministry of Health representatives from 97 cities of 37 European countries. Also including representatives from European Commission, European Council, and United Nations Human Settlements Program, up to 400 visitors arrived at İzmir. 2012 annual meeting of the World Health Organisation was held in St.Petersburg, Russia.