Design is the Foundation for Healthy, Equitable Cities

When I go to work every morning, I always take the bike. I love the fresh air when I drive through the city. And I love that I can both get exercise and get to my job faster than if I had taken the car.

The city of Copenhagen is designed so that taking the bike is an easy choice. I can see that every morning, when all Copenhageners have chosen their bikes over other forms of transportation too. We never need to consider whether or not to take the bike – we just do it.

That is because the Municipality of Copenhagen has made a political priority: bikes over cars. Therefore we have broad bike lanes on every street. And that makes a great difference.

Copenhagen also has green areas and outdoor fitness facilities all over the city. We see people outside spending time with friends and family – some of them being active at the same time. By designing the city this way, it has become more vibrant and useful for everyone.

In Copenhagen we call our health policy “Enjoy life, Copenhagener” because that is what health is all about. Health is not a goal in itself. Health is a means for you to enjoy life. By making healthy choices the easy choices, the Municipality of Copenhagen is helping Copenhageners to achieve a higher quality of life.

One of my primary focuses as a Mayor is how we can combat the social inequality on health. In Copenhagen, as in every capital, there is big a difference between the neighborhoods. For example, there is one area in Copenhagen where the life expectancy is, on average, eight years less than other parts of the city..

We need to use both health efforts and urban development as active means in our cities if we want to create more social equality. That is our goal in Copenhagen and, although we are not there yet, we are still getting closer every day.

To give an example, the Municipality of Copenhagen has decided to offer free help to every Copenhagener who wants to quit smoking. We know that smoking is the biggest health threat to our citizens and we know that there is social inequality is a determining factor in those who start smoking.

We also offer help to Copenhageners who struggle with stress. We do that because we know that our physical and our mental health are equally vital keys to a good life.

The Municipality also works in close collaboration with both doctors and voluntary groups in local areas as a way to reach people who do not have the extra energy required to take care of their own health.

It is important to recognize that health efforts, on their own, are not enough. To combat social inequality related to health, we need to work together on every aspect. Whether it is education, the labor market, urban development or health care, all aspects are vital in our effort to create social equality.

Health is a means to a good life. Everyone has a right to enjoy life – no matter who you are or where you come from.