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The challenge

Across the world, cities are changing. According to UN Habitat, 85 percent of young people globally live in developing countries, with more and more of them growing up in cities. By 2050, more than two-thirds of the world’s population will live in urban areas. That rapid urban growth is generating amazing opportunities but also significant challenges. In the face of this unprecedented human mobility, many cities are struggling to meet the basic needs of the people who live there — especially young people. These challenges are often directly related to young people’s health and wellbeing, such as nutrition and food security, their ability to access health services and infrastructure, air pollution, and access to safe public spaces for play that can benefit mental health and wellbeing. Intermediary cities are very much part of that rural-to-urban transformation and are growing fast, but often don’t have the same infrastructure support, services and resources that larger metro cities are allocated. On the other hand, due to their smaller size, many intermediary cities are more ready to collaborate with civil society actors and more open to innovation and transformative change.

Our contribution

To tackle the above issues related to young people’s health and wellbeing in intermediary cities, we worked with our partners to co-create and design the Healthy Cities for Adolescents (HCA) Program, a multi-year initiative. Healthy, thriving, and livable cities are critical to the New Urban Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals – in particular SDG 11: Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. The HCA Program is promoting these global frameworks by integrating these at the local level in various cities of the global south. 

Healthy Cities for Adolescents promotes young people as important contributors and equal partners in creating sustainable solutions for their respective growing cities, with the aim of deepening knowledge about health and wellbeing issues and solutions. By fostering a multi-stakeholder, community-led consortium, representing diverse groups from grassroots agencies and local governments to civil society and the private sector, the program aims to address the health and wellbeing of young people by scaling up and integrating promising practices and useful digital technologies into city planning processes. 

Healthy Cities for Adolescents is currently being implemented in several cities across five countries. To follow the journey of the projects on social media, use #HealthyCitiesAdolescents and visit the website here

Selected projects

Fort pour le Futur, Thiès, Senegal

Lead Partner: Nutrition International

Project duration: May 2019 – ongoing

With a population of 600,000 people, Thiès is one of the largest secondary cities in Senegal, and a busy crossroads for people from other parts of the country and the sub-region. High rates of poverty, malnutrition and sexually transmitted infections such as HIV/AIDS, early pregnancy, drug abuse, sexual abuse, female genital mutilation (FGM) and gender-based violence are some of the issues impacting the wellbeing of young people.

Fort pour le Futur (FPF) is a multi-stakeholder project involving numerous partners bringing together their collective experience and knowledge to collaborate and provide a model of integrated nutrition and sexual and reproductive health and rights services, using digital technologies that empower young people in this challenging urban environment. 

So far, the FPF project has improved delivery of comprehensive, high quality, youth-responsive, and gender-sensitive nutrition and SRHR services for in- and out-of-school adolescents through peer support groups and adolescent centers, as well as enhanced youth participation informing city action plans through knowledge building and advocacy strategies.


  • City of Thiès
  • Ministry of Health
  • Ministry of Youth
  • Ministry of Education

Learn more about Fort pour le Futur here.

Responsible Adolescent Health Interventions, Tamale and Ashaiman, Ghana

Lead Partner: Regional Institute of Population Studies, University of Ghana

Project duration: May 2019 – ongoing

Tamale, a secondary city of Ghana, has grown rapidly over the past two decades to a population of nearly one million residents, which has led to complex health and development challenges. Young people’s lack of access to reproductive health services, as well as low enrollment and high drop-out rates in secondary schools are of concern to community and city stakeholders. Attempts at national level approaches to address such challenges, especially with the use of emerging technology, have yielded little results so far. 

Responsive Adolescent Health Interventions has built a multi-stakeholder consortium that advances policy research and guides action plans to promote adolescent health and wellbeing in Tamale city planning, as well as contributingb towards national discussions on attaining SDG 3 and related global goals in Ghana. The project is using the case study of Tamale Metropolis to inform national level policies and the replication of lessons in the secondary city of Ashaiman.

So far, the project has increased adolescent awareness of and participation in health decision-making at Tamale Metropolitan Assembly’s strategic planning framework, organised adolescent-friendly health information and services shared through youth peer support groups and AI call centers, and enhanced mobilisation and capacity building of stakeholder institutions on information regarding adolescent wellbeing. 


  • Ghana Health Services
  • Ghana Education Services
  • Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana
  • Tamale Metro Assembly
  • Northern Regional Youth Network
  • Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology

Learn more about Responsive Adolescent Health Interventions here.

Vivo Mi Calle, Cali, Colombia

Lead Partner: Fundación Despacio

Project duration: May 2019 – ongoing

Cali is the third largest city in Colombia with a population of 2.8 million. It holds the highest crime rate and road crash rate in the country, creating one of the greatest barriers for children and young people to enjoy their streets and public spaces. Furthermore, statistics show that many young people in Cali are overweight mainly due to bad nutrition and inactivity. 

Vivo Mi Calle (VMC) improves the wellbeing of young people in low-income areas by empowering them to create healthier environments through their active participation in city planning and regeneration processes. 

The VMC project outcomes so far include the transformation of select public spaces through demonstrator initiatives such as the Bridge of Colors, which regenerated a dangerous public space into an accessible, thriving space that’s been designed with and for young people, resulting in increased social cohesion. In addition, adolescent participation has increased through the use of digital technology to co-produce knowledge  through surveys and maps that have been shared with the local government to inform bike paths, knowledge about safer routes, and ideas for future interventions. 


  • World Resources Institute
  • Secretariat of Mobility
  • Secretariat of Peace and Citizen Culture
  • Department of Gender Equity
  • Institución Educativa Nuevo Latir – community school
  • Institución Educativa Santa Rosa – community school

Learn more about Vivo Mi Calle here.

Co-creating Healthy Cities for Adolescents and Youth, Da Nang, Vietnam

Lead Partner: UNICEF Vietnam

Project duration: October 2020 – ongoing

Da Nang in Vietnam is home to roughly one million people. It is a vibrant commercial, financial, educational, technological, and tourist hub. With strong leadership and commitment from the city leaders, Da Nang is on the path to become Vietnam’s second Child Friendly City, along with Ho Chi Minh City, endorsed by UNICEF. 

The project is supporting the development and evolution of Da Nang into a healthy, dynamic and youth friendly city to ensure the wellbeing and participation of young people through strategic partnerships, capacity building, and the integrated use of technology. UNICEF’s interventions are focusing on adolescent skill building, promoting active participation of young people to enhance local governance, and ensuring the integration of important child-related targets and indicators in the new City Program of Action on Children.

The project outcomes so far include the increased empowerment of and engagement with adolescents in local governance, adolescent skills development, including in marginalized groups, and young people applying technology as an enabler to co-create solutions and contribute to the city action plan to promote their health and wellbeing.


  • Da Nang People’s Committee
  • Ministry of Education and Training
  • Ministry of Health
  • Da Nang Youth Union

Learn more about Co-Creating Healthy Cities for Adolescents and Youth here.

HCA India Initiative, Jaipur and Bhubaneswar, India

Managing Partner: Ennovent India

Project duration: October 2020 – ongoing

India, with a population of 1.4 billion people, is home to 365 million youth in the 10-24 age group. Key challenges of young people across the country include poor access to healthcare and education, a lack of links between skill development opportunities and employment, and mental health issues contributing to high suicide rates. Jaipur and Bhubaneswar are intermediary cities that are hubs of youth activity and offer a strong ecosystem for promoting  youth-led solutions using technological innovation. 

The HCA India Initiative aims to enhance the health and wellbeing of young people through multi-stakeholder, community-led interventions. Country situation analysis and city landscape assessment reports have informed a five-pillared country strategy. These are: strengthening local governance; building life skills; improving gender equity; creating healthy environments; and knowledge building to drive a learning agenda. 

The program is rolling out these pillars through demonstrator projects that are implemented and managed by local organisations. Two demonstrator projects are now launched, the first led by local implementing partner Haqdarshak to train young people to become community leaders, and the second led by World Resources Institute India to develop a healthy public space framework informed and co-designed by young people that will be a resource to local government.

Implementing Partners:

  • World Resources Institute India
  • Haqdarshak

Gambetiando, Medellín, Colombia

Lead Partner: Impact Hub in Medellín

Project duration: May 2019 – December 2020. 

Medellin, a city of 2.5 million people, has halved its poverty rate in the last ten years, increased public investment in health, and is developing an action plan linked to the Sustainable Development Goals framework— but progress has been geographically unequal across the city and indicators show malnutrition, adolescent pregnancy and socio-environmental factors that combine to negatively impact on adolescent’s health, wellbeing and life course are clustered in certain neighborhoods.

Gambetiando was launched to address some of these challenges in select struggling neighbourhoods, using soccer as a vehicle to improve young people’s health and wellbeing. The soccer sport training program focused on socio-emotional skills development, values formation, nutrition training with families, and a social entrepreneurship program. 

The project concluded operations in December 2020. The outcomes and achievements included improved health and wellbeing for young people, strengthening of socio-emotional and leadership skills, developing positive values through sports, as well as developing life and entrepreneurial skills. The project increased the capacity of young people to voice their concerns and present solutions, especially to reduce violence, and perceive community needs as opportunities to deliver impact, which lead to positive cultural change within their family, school, and social circles.

Learn more about Gambetiando here.

Comvos, Cali, Colombia

Lead Partner: Coschool

Project duration: May 2019 – December 2020. 

Cali is a secondary city in Colombia with a population of 2.8 million. It has the highest murder rate in the country (nearly 1,200 in 2017), and its geographic location combined with the armed conflict in Colombia has led to the city suffering from areas of high poverty, with drug trafficking and displaced internal refugees. Studies have shown that young people in this region are struggling with aggression, violence, self-harm, and sexual abuse, particularly within the 10-15-year-old bracket. 

Comvos was launched to improve the wellbeing of young people in Cali through the creation, execution, and scale-up of a participatory pedagogical model that promoted social emotional learning of young people enabling them to be leaders in their communities and cities. Through this project, young people in Cali were trained to take a leading role in building local solutions to their community problems. 

The project concluded operations in December 2020. Achievements included the creation of a toolkit documenting best practices of the pedagogical model on a digital platform which permitted distribution and replication; training school leaders to apply the model in their contexts; the creation of COMVOCEROS, a network of youth leaders that transformed the narratives around youth through art expressions and digital storytelling mechanisms; and development of youth’s socio-emotional skills and an increase in youths’ perception of themselves as agents of change.


Colombia, Ghana, Senegal, Vietnam, India

Duration of project

2019 – 2023


Watch all the videos from the Healthy Cities for Adolescent Program here.

Watch the Healthy Cities for Adolescents Program at the 10th World Urban Forum here.

The Future Now.
For Young People

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