Urban Health Initiative in Accra: Discussion of results and the way forward

Accra, Ghana

Ambient and household air pollution are major causes of death and disease globally and Short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) such as methane, black carbon and tropospheric ozone are a substantial contributor to global warming. The WHO Urban Health Initiative (UHI) is implemented in response to World Health Assembly Resolution 68.8 from May 2015, which requests WHO to build health sector capacity to work with other sectors, and support countries to identify effective interventions and track progress, while continuing to update the evidence for health impacts of air pollution.  As one of the responses to the resolution, WHO has prepared a pilot project in Accra to address air pollution and related health effects in cities in Low- and Middle Income Countries.

The rationale of the project is to empower the health sector to realize its potential, to build on the sector’s influential position, and to demonstrate the full range of health benefits that can be achieved from implementing air pollution/SLCP reduction strategies, particularly at the city level. Interventions of the UHI rest on four pillars:

I. Developing a multidisciplinary approach and building methodologies that address the health impacts of urban policies specifically in developing countries;

II. Dedicating detailed attention to air pollution and the interplay between waste, transport and household energy sectors;

III. Fostering health competencies and engaging key stakeholders by, for example improving messages on air pollution consequences between health practitioners and their patients;

IV. Conducting health communications campaigns to raise public awareness on the connection between climate and air pollution and health, and catalysing increased local interest and engagement for action on emission reduction.

The desired impact of the project is to reduce deaths and diseases associated with air pollutants, as well as to realize climate and other health benefits (e.g. less injuries, better diets, safe physical activity), associated with policies and measures to tackle air pollution. Particular attention has been given to sectors responsible for air pollution, specifically household, waste and transport activities. In this last phase of the initiative, it is relevant to review all the analysis done for the environmental policies, in particular for air pollution and health impacts, and pave the way forward to use the initiative in other cities and contexts. 

Use of methods and tools for impact assessment, policy tracking, capacity building of the health sector, communication activities, reports and political discussions. Methods have been adapted, improved, tested and made available by WHO. The policy tracking work will serve as a model for tracking “urban health” policies with both conceptual and practical examples. In the second phase the challenge is to use a policy tracking framework that can be utilized in different places, particularly in other African cities. Capacity building is one of the pillars of the project with WHO dedicating a huge effort to produce an entire course for the health sector with 19 modules for clinicians and public health, and activities are planned after these series of workshops in November.

These activities will be undertaken in collaboration with all the partners that have mainly contributed to the UHI and in particular, with the University of Ghana. The workshop is planned for 26-29 October, 2021 and we review the work done during the first phase of the project. This meeting will also give the opportunity to examine in detail the impact and challenges for sectors that are responsible for air pollution such as transport and waste and also to discuss land use and green spaces questions. This discussion constitutes the finalization of the UHI in this first phase and provides information, lessons learned, advice and guidance on the next step for a second phase within Ghana and for the African Region.  


The purpose of this meeting is to present and discuss the work developed along three years and further discuss activities (for example policy tracking, with special attention to air pollution), to be continued in the next months and year.  Objectives include:

  • Present the updated WHO Air Quality Guidelines to stakeholders
  • Present and discuss the work done during the first phase of the UHI project
  • Discuss experiences relevant for and from other African countries
  • Examine the impact and challenges for sectors responsible for air pollution and climate pollutants such as transport, waste and land use and green spaces
  • Present workshops to explore more in details the use of methods and tools that have been part of the UHI
  • Discuss way forward for the second phase of UHI.

Expected Results

  • WHO Updated Air Quality Guidelines disseminated to stakeholders
  • Be introduced to the practice of various tools and software and their use in different contexts
  • UHI Phase 1 project achievements, lessons learned shared and recommendations discussed for the way forward.


Over 40 participants including Government Representatives, Academia and Development Partners including WHO staff and international experts have been invited for this meeting.