Thursday, September 29, 2011

White House Sends Let's Move! Delegation To United Nations Health Summit

Dr. Judy Palfrey, Let's Move! Executive Director, blogs about the event...
In New York last week, as President Obama addressed the 66th session of the United Nation's General Assembly, First Lady Obama's Let's Move! team was at the UN too. On Sept. 19 and 20th, the UN held its first-ever High Level Meeting on the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases, which brought together global leaders for a summit focusing on cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic lung diseases and diabetes. Let's Move! Executive Director Dr. Judy Palfrey and members of the Let's Move! team acted as delegates for the summit, where there was much discussion of diets, food systems, and obesity. Palfrey posted about the experience on the Let's Move! blog, noting that the team was "inspired." The post is reprinted in full, below. (Above: Palfrey)

"We were...struck by the commitment of the leaders of many nations that they want to prevent the health consequences of the obesity epidemic that is literally growing worldwide," Palfrey wrote.

One thing Palfrey doesn't mention in her blogpost: On the eve of the summit, UN human rights expert Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Olivier De Schutter called on the global community to take "immediate and decisive action" against food corporations that produce unhealthy foods. De Schutter said nations must understand that "taxing unhealthy food, regulating harmful marketing practices and standing up to the food industry" are crucial to eliminating preventable diseases, especially diabetes and obesity.
"Our food systems create sick people: failure to act decisively on this issue kills almost 3 million adults each year," De Schutter said. "Voluntary guidelines are not enough."

The Obama Administration--despite being criticized by the GOP for over regulation--does not follow De Schutter's definition of "decisive action" in obesity policy.  There are currently no plans to tax unhealthy foods.  Regulating food marketing to children has come in the form of "voluntary principles" from the FTC (currently under furious assault from the GOP and food/media corporations).

And the White House, led by Mrs. Obama, has engaged stakeholders from across the food industry for voluntary commitments to changing unhealthy foods, which includes trimming fat, salt and sugar content in products, and building markets in food deserts.

Read De Schutter's full statement here. The only other time the UN has held a summit on health was for HIV/Aids.

Palfrey's blogpost:

O What a Wonderful World!
By Dr. Judy Palfrey

On September 19, for first time in history, world leaders met at the United Nations in a High Level Meeting called to begin addressing diabetes, heart disease and cancer on Global scale. One after another the Presidents, Prime Ministers, Health Ministers and other dignitaries stood in front of the UN symbol of peace pledged their resolve to address the root cause of many of these diseases -- overweight and obesity.

As delegates to the high level meeting, a number of us from the Let's Move! team had the honor of meeting people from all over the world who are committed to improving the nutrition and fitness of children and families and to prevent the early onset of chronic health problems.

We were inspired by stories of countries that are examining the availability of fresh foods and the opportunities for young children to play and explore the world. We were also struck by the commitment of the leaders of many nations that they want to prevent the health consequences of the obesity epidemic that is literally growing worldwide.

One of the people we met at the UN meeting was Isabella Platon, the Director of the International Diabetes Federation. As a mother, she has come up with a beautiful way to raise her own children in a global context that celebrates the world's diversity and the beauty of good food and culture. She and her 2 children have identified simple recipes from 195 countries that they can prepare together at home. They are "traveling around the globe" as they chop onions and chillies and tomatoes and prepare rice and beans and spring rolls together. It is at home and in our communities that we can learn about each other and support our children in having fun, learning about the world and keeping healthy.


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