Background Information: Philips and Livable Cities

April 7, 2010

World Health Day 2010 will focus on the health implications of urbanization and health. The campaign "1000 cities - 1000 lives" will encourage worldwide events that promote participation in health activities, such as the opening of public space and clean-up campaigns, in 1,000 cities across the globe.


Currently, rapid urbanization and ageing populations are having a far-reaching impact on how we live in cities today. According to the UN HABITAT State of the World’s Cities 2010/2011, the world’s urban population now exceeds the world’s rural population. More than one in every two inhabitants on earth lives in a city, and this figure is set to rise to two in every three inhabitants by 2050.


Additionally, as people are living longer, they are living longer alone in cities. Eventually, majority of the world’s elderly will live in cities. These trends present mayors, urban planners, providers of community-based services, employers, educators, and individuals with a variety of challenges.


Philips, as a health and well-being company active in the areas of lighting, healthcare, and consumer lifestyle, is one of a number of stakeholders in a position to contribute to a vision of ‘keeping cities livable’ through alliances, solutions, and technologies based on an understanding of what is important to citizens today.  Philips recognizes the complexity of these problems and the pressing need for simple solutions for the health and well-being of citizens living, working, and playing in urban environments.


The term ‘livable cities’, while used as a staple in the glossary of urban planning for decades in various forms, has only recently begun to be part of the public psyche. Perhaps this is due to an ongoing debate defining what actually constitutes a ‘livable city’. In fact to some, the very concept of a “city” is under discussion, as according to the UN, many of the world’s largest cities are actually merging into “mega-regions” as they continue to grow in size and population. 


Part of the definition for livable cities includes the basics, such as ongoing access to clean air and drinkable water, the availability of sufficient nutritious food, waste disposal, and the conservation of energy.


However, the notion of livable cities goes well beyond the basics. Equally important is people’s quality of life (QOL).  QOL measures, which are broader than GDP or other traditional economic measures, are becoming increasingly important in meeting needs and providing services. Many are now redefining these measures, including the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and International Institute for Sustainable Development, who recently came up with 58 QOL indicators.


The QOL measures that Philips believes are most important include:


  • Safety: How safe do we feel in our urban environments?


  • Social cohesion: How can we remove social, economic, or ethnic barriers, or wide variations in income, crime, and unrest? How can a sense of togetherness and pride be created in the city and region?


  • Access to appropriate and timely healthcare: How can we provide equal access to quality healthcare as an essential for all members of the city? What role do community-based services play?


  • Independent living: The World Health Organization has outlined a checklist with suggestions to encourage cities to become more age-friendly and to facilitate independent living, for instance - safety is a priority, public spaces need to be considered to provide adequate and comfortable seating, access to community services, public transport, accessibility of shops and theatres, and age-friendly health services, such as home care.


As Philips seeks to understand what matters most to citizens all over the world about their urban environments, The Philips Centre for Health and Well-being is currently conducting a worldwide series of reports entitled the Philips Index on health and well-being on how people perceive their health and well-being. The Philips Index shows that people’s health and well-being is affected by their health, their emotional well-being, their relationship with friends and family, their job, and the community that they live in.


So far in 2010, results are available from the U.S., Brazil, and China. While there are some country variables, it is interesting to note that common trends are already emerging in the key priorities cited by citizens questioned.  These confirm that it is not only the “basics of existence in cities” that is key, but also the quality of life factors that determine a city’s’ livability. Differences in the study tend to be more apparent when comparing developed versus developing nations. For example:

  • In the U.S., 94% of people ranked safety and crime rate as the most important factor affecting health and well-being in their community, followed closely by the quality of local hospitals and access to healthcare.
  • In China, 86% of people ranked pollution and smog as the most important factor affecting health and well-being in their community, followed by access to public transport and main roads, and the type of neighbors in the community.
  • In Brazil, 94% of people ranked garbage pick-up (waste management) as the most important factor affecting health and well-being in their community, followed closely by safety and crime rate, quality of roads, and access to healthcare 


In addressing the ambitions and concerns of city dwellers worldwide, Philips plays a role in helping communities answer some of these questions with simple solutions in the areas of healthcare, lighting, and consumer products for everyday life. Some examples:


Philips offers a range of solutions to manage essential resources such as energy, air, water and food.

  • Philips’ “Simple Switch” campaign aims to reduce energy consumption, raising awareness amongst consumers of their energy footprint and encouraging energy-saving actions such as simply changing old light bulbs for new energy efficient lighting.
  • Philips Green Products can reduce costs, energy consumption and CO2 emissions. They offer customers a significant environmental improvement in one or more of the Philips Green Focal Areas - Energy efficiency, Packaging, Hazardous substances, Weight, Recycling and disposal, and Lifetime reliability Solutions
  • Philips has developed solutions such as the Philips Clean Air System and the Philips UV water purifier to combat air pollution and improve access to drinkable water in developing cities such as in India and China. The major concern of Chinese citizens when asked about their community was the effect of pollution and smog (86%).
  • The Chulha is an innovative sustainable, healthy cooking stove designed to limit the dangerous health effects caused by smoke from the traditional indoor cooking in many rural areas of the developing world. The Chulha, which is part of Philips’ ‘Philanthropy by Design’ program, was awarded the prestigious Index award in 2009.
  • Philips Design has also undertaken a study called the Food Probe program a provocative and unconventional look at issues that could have a profound effect on the way we eat and source our food 15-20 years from now.


Safety was the single-most important consideration for Americans polled in the Philips Index on Health and Well-being (mentioned above), the second most important consideration in Brazil and the fourth most important consideration for health and well-being in China.


Philips’ lighting solutions help address this concern, for example with solutions such as Philips’ CosmoPolis outdoor lighting– its warm white light helps drivers and pedestrians see better, distinguish colours clearly and thus make streets safer.

Social cohesion in a city refers to a sense of togetherness and pride in the city and region, as such mayors and town planners are carefully reviewing their “city identity” as a way to connect with citizens, but also to differentiate which can generate tourism and encourage economic investment.

  • Philips opened the Outdoor Lighting Application Center (OLAC) in Lyon in 2006 to promote outdoor lighting and city beautification.
  • Philips contributes to the creation of city identity with LED lighting solutions for the illumination of urban landmarks.


Philips has also developed a range of off-grid lighting solutions to enable activities after dark in areas that do not yet have access to electricity.

  • Philips recently introduced the world’s first solar powered LED floodlighting solution for a football stadium in South Africa.
  • In 2009, Philips launched a solar-powered reading light in Africa, intended to help children in Africa who live without electricity to continue with homework after sundown.
  • The Philips Uday mini solar lantern provides bright white light after sundown allowing people to continue with the day’s activities in areas that have no electricity



  • The Index results showed that for Americans local hospitals and access to healthcare were 2nd and 3rd on their list of priorities for their community. In Brazil, these were in the top 5 priorities, and in China, local hospitals came in at number 6.
  • In its recently announced sustainability program, EcoVision5, Philips has committed to touch the lives of 500 million people by 2015, also through healthcare.
  • Philips has developed localized healthcare products to meet local market needs in emerging markets, some examples:
    • The Philips Smit Mobile Breast Screening Unit, designed to bring advanced screening technologies to women in the Middle East.
    • Philips SureSigns, a series of new portable, compact patient monitors that provides a reliable, yet affordable means to observe and care for patients. This is now available to healthcare providers in India.
    • As part of its ‘Philanthropy by Design’ program, Philips Design has worked with leading international organizations and NGOs to create the Breath Counter, a device to radically improve the diagnosis of pneumonia in under-fives in developing countries. This solar-powered device was the recipient of an International Design of Excellence Award in 2009.


The Philips Index for Health and Well-being in the US illustrated that the #1 aspect of health and well-being for Americans is the overall physical health of family members.


Philips home healthcare solutions offer a range of products and technologies designed to enable senior living at home, with medical care available at the press of a button:

  • Philips Lifeline with AutoAlert, which automatically places a call for help once it detects a fall in case the person who has fallen is unable to press the button themselves
  • Philips Motiva, an interactive telehealth solution that connects those with chronic conditions to their doctors
  • Philips handset-cordless Big-Button phone and Philips Big-Button Universal remote control for those with impaired vision
  • Philips Medication Dispensing Service, which reminds patients to take medications and alerts them or another family member if a dose is missed.
  • Philips Research is also currently leading MyHeart and HeartCycle research projects aimed at detecting cardiac decompensation at home.


Philips is helping define the “livable cities” dialogue and is in a position to contribute to the development of livable cities globally.


During 2010, Philips will host a ‘Healthy Debates’ series, featuring thought leaders working in these fields,  which will address these issues in turn. 


For more information on the Philips Index for Health and Well-being and Philips solutions, go to and