Vanessa Candeias

Global Health Leaders Engaging on Obesity

A remarkable group came together this morning at the World Health Assembly in Geneva. Roughly 60 global health leaders engaged in a lively discussion about strategies to address the economic and public health challenge of obesity. One national public health officer described it aptly:

I’ve participated in a number of other events this week. But this is the one that genuinely engaged my full attention.

A Shared Challenge

CEO Johanna Ralston opened the event on behalf of the World Obesity Federation, describing the global scope of this challenge. Speaking for the Obesity Action Coalition, Ted Kyle facilitated the meeting and challenged these diverse global health leaders:

Our purpose is to give voice to people living with obesity – people who all too often find themselves ignored or diminished by obesity policies.

I want to thank the organizers of this event and every one of you who cares so much about this subject that you are here.

I suspect that most of us are here because we see flaws in current strategies to address obesity. But if we’re going to find fault with current strategies, then what’s the alternative? What should we do about obesity? That’s the question for all of us to consider this morning.

Diverse Stakeholders

We saw diverse leaders, committed to public health and economic vitality, fully engage this challenge. Governments from nations large and small came. The American Heart Association participated alongside the World Cancer Research Fund. The Healthy Caribbean Coalition contributed just as the Canadian Obesity Network did. We heard equally from leaders in private, public, and nonprofit sectors.

In short, it was nothing less than remarkable to see these diverse global health leaders engaging on the subject. Perhaps most inspiring was the focus on respect for people living with this complex, chronic condition. As one distinguished leader noted, “we might not agree on the language for this disease, but we can agree that, with respect, it’s manageable.”

Click here for more background on the World Health Assembly.

Vanessa Candeias, World Economic Forum Head of Global Health; photograph © Ted Kyle / flickr

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May 24, 2018