Imagine the amount of space you have in an airplane seat. Now imagine yourself frantically scribbling knowledge about the health workforce and its implications for the global economy without a table. Meanwhile, a delegate from South Africa with twice the years of wisdom as you has kindly shared his earpiece with you to listen to the English translation because the speaker began talking about une révolution et contrat social.
During my first duty as a session note-taker I crammed myself into a conference packed with delegates from all over the world. Throughout the various sessions, side-events, and meetings as the 69th World Health Assembly with top global health professionals there were many common themes with the most unifying one referred to as a “multi-sectoral” approach. By far this has been my favorite concept used at the WHA. It is a healthy reminder for all of us dedicated to ensuring the highest attainable standard to health for all. This means to create common language between public and private sectors, civil society, labor, transportation, planning, and the health sectors (among many others) to the address people needs holistically, effectively, and sustainably.
It was exciting to see this represented in the panel Ending Childhood Obesity: Securing the Future for Our Children, when the Sub Minister of Prevention and Health Promotion, Dr. Pablo Kuri, spoke on behalf of Mexico about the 1 peso per liter tax on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) implemented in 2014. By the end of the year there was a 4% decrease in SSB consumption and a 6% increase in water consumption, particularly higher among low income households. Throughout the session delegates from all over the world praised Mexico for its ability to work with multiple sectors of society, including civil society and the private sector, to address the alarmingly high obesity rates. Furthermore, the country was even able to pass legislation at the same time that banned junk food marketing to young children as well as change an article within its constitution to prohibit the sale of junk food to elementary students at school. While the general consensus was that there is still much work to be done, this was a moment of inspiration shared across member-States present in the room as well as non-State actors, like me.
Childhood obesity is only one of many complex examples that require the attention from multiple global actors. Throughout the Assembly it was clear that it truly takes a village to raise a child, but most importantly to ensure the human right to health for all.
Elizabeth Quintero Osuna 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.