My favorite side event at the WHA today was called: “Accelerating National Progress on Tackling Child Obesity and Under-nutrition in a Sustainable Way.” I’ll be honest, I decided to attend this event because one of my role models, Jamie Oliver, was a speaker.Jamie started a food revolution to change the dietary habits of children in the globe. To him, access to good, fresh, nutrition food is every child’s human right. My favorite memory was watching him on TV teaching young kids what vegetables were, while challenging the lunch systems by completely changing them to be nutritionally dense and combat the obesity issue in America. As soon as I heard his name being associated with the side event, I was sold.
During the event I expected him to be speaking majority of the time, testing the audience about their perceptions of food. Instead I was enlightened and inspired by not only him, but all the member states who shared their progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030. Finland, Namibia, Canada, Kenya, Bangladesh, Zambia, Mexico, Australia, United Kingdom, Brazil, Chile, USA, and the Netherlands all shared their progress on the issues of obesity and malnutrition. Each country touched upon their goals and accomplishments thus far, and a major fact stood out – nutrition is not only about food. Sanitation, climate, education, economy, and agriculture all play an equivalent role. Coming from a nutrition background in undergraduate college, it’s easy to compartmentalize each subject, yet instead it should be looked at from a more holistic approach. Without climate there is no agriculture, without sanitation there is disease and malnourishment, without education there is no economy, and without agriculture there is no food.
Regarding obesity, it will be a constant fight with major food companies who are the main contributors to the changing food stock in stores and perceptions of food to the public through public marketing. The collaboration between member states and motivation to find the best health solution for the obese population helped to push for Mexico and UK to tax sugary drinks and ban the marketing to the youth population on television during specific times. There are also food label warnings on unhealthy products in Chile to make the buyers more aware of the ingredients they put into their bodies. This progression took time, but ambition and push drove change to reduce obesity statistics in these countries. After hearing about this progression, I strongly felt that the SGD goals for 2030 are achievable.
Jamie Oliver and the member states became equally inspiring to me after that insightful experience.
Jasmine Patel is a Master’s of Public Health student at USC.
The USC Institute for Global Health organizes an annual trip to the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, as part of the course “Global Health Governance & Diplomacy in Practice in Geneva at the World Health Assembly.” This year, a group of 12 students are embedded as delegates to NCD Alliance members at the 69th World Health Assembly May 23-28.