Health for all. All for health.

(The below article was written for the city of Izmir to support its bid to host EXPO 2020. Although Izmir lost the bid to Dubai, it is my utmost hope that the ideas in this article will help Izmir in its noble pursuit of creating a healthier planet.)

The World Health Organization defines the meaning of health as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” If health means more than being just physically well, then how healthy do you think the following three facts can be? 

  1. Swedes, who endure more than a 45-minute commute, are 40% more likely to divorce.[i]
  2. The British got richer by more than 40% between 1993 and 2012, but the rate of psychiatric disorders and neuroses grew.[ii]
  3. Americans, who live a car-dependent life, suffer significant muscular deterioration and expression losses.[iii]


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Let’s face it: deep down, all of us think that health is a service we can buy at the hospital. But maybe health is not within the complete purview of doctors… Maybe there isn’t only one way of being healthy… Maybe health involves everything from the physical wellbeing of individuals to social cohesion of communities in the sustainable development of world’s economy… Maybe the faith of human civilization depends on us finding healthier ways to live, to plan our cities, and to do business… Izmir, the frontier city of Turkey, deeply believes that no matter what we do, health is the answer. And with its bid for EXPO 2020, it is ready to lead humanity to healthier tomorrows.

You may ask, “How can Izmir claim the role of a guide in a global journey to health?”   What is really unique about Izmir was not its natural beauties, but its inhabitants’ innovative mindset. Throughout its 8,500 years of existence, Izmir has always been a magnet for curious people who question accepted methods. Many ‘firsts’ of the region took, and are still taking place, in Izmir. The first hospital of Eurasia was built in Izmir… Rumor has that the world’s first olive oil factory was founded in Izmir… The human race implemented the first geometrical city layout in Izmir… It’s where the parchment paper was invented. Izmir is also the city, where Homer wrote the Odyssey… To be at the forefront of matters has always been the spirit of Izmir.

While its frontier mentality is Izmir’s greatest strength, the city thrives on being exceptional. First, Izmir is a historically international city and has been one of the principal mercantile cities of the Mediterranean Sea. Today, the city has a healthy economy. Izmir’s port is Turkey’s primary port for exports and its free zone is one of the largest in the region.

Second, beauty, an essential prerequisite for mental health, is abundantly present in Izmir. After all, Victor Hugo once called Izmir “a princess with her most beautiful hat.” Having 300 days of summer, a temperate climate, perfect beaches, and friendly citizens, all contribute to the ingredients of a healthy city.

Third, people of Izmir enjoy a very healthy, cohesive, and inclusive social lifestyle. Having hosted dozens of historical civilizations, Izmir has always been a melting pot for people of different ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds. In an age of constant conflict between various regions and civilizations, what a better city is there than the secular Izmir to cultivate a healthy understanding between different cultures and religions?

Finally, Izmir’s prime location is an excellent asset for EXPO 2020, which is all about connecting ideas, nations, and people. Izmir is only 3 hours flight distance away from 48 countries on 3 continents. The city is situated on the most western point of the East, and the most eastern point of the West. This characteristic makes Izmir a unique cultural bridge, creating healthy international connections. Not surprisingly, millions of visitors are expected to visit Izmir during the EXPO 2020. This would create vital economic opportunities for the city itself and the Balkans, Middle East and Caucasian regions.

Modern physics points out to a mysterious fact: What we pay attention to becomes real… It materializes… It grows… In a way, what we believe to be real is real and what we decide to concentrate on determines our reality. That’s why psychologists often say that attention is the cardinal value of psychology. Here is something Izmir wants the world to pay attention to:

We, the human race, have been inhabiting the Blue Planet for a couple of million years. During this time, our progress has accelerated exponentially. But all that growth had a shadow aspect: Cancer, which is unhealthy growth… Obesity, which is unhealthy diet… Stress, which is unhealthy workload… Traffic, which is unhealthy city planning. Crime, which is unhealthy moral values. And war, which is unhealthy understanding of “the other”… The faster we grow, the more physical, mental, and social well-being we need. In other words, we need more health. In every sense of the word…

You can help Izmir guide humanity to a healthier world. On November 27th, vote for Izmir to host EXPO 2020.

Health for all. All for health.

“Izmir delight” by Lefteris Heretakis is licensed under CC BY 2.0

540-698 Dovercourt Rd, Toronto, ON, Canada

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