Community participation and empowerment are core principles underpinning the Healthy Cities movement. By providing an overview of theory and presenting the relevant findings of evaluations, this article explores how cities in the WHO European Healthy Cities Network have integrated community participation and empowerment within their development. Reflecting the inclusion of public participation and empowerment within the designation criteria for project cities, the evaluation of Phase III in 2002 demonstrated that community participation continues to be a high priority in most project cities. One-third of cities regularly consulted with large parts of their populations and another third undertook occasional consultations. Nearly 80% of cities had mechanisms for community representatives to participate in decision-making; and more than two-thirds of cities had initiatives explicitly aimed at empowering local people. Subsequent research carried out during 2005 further highlighted the centrality of public participation to the Healthy Cities movement. It found that all project cities continued to support community involvement. Community participation is an essential part of the process of good local governance, and empowerment remains at the heart of effective health promotion. To be meaningful, these processes must be seen as fundamental values of Healthy Cities and so must be developed as an integral part of long-term strategic development.
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