Washington, D.C., April 25, 2011 – Dr. Jon Andrus, Deputy Director of the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), met recently with a top aide to Michelle Obama to discuss the U.S. First Lady’s initiative to reduce childhood obesity, “Let’s Move,” and PAHO/WHO’s own work in this area.
Dr. Andrus met at the White House on April 20 with Dr. Shale Wong, a pediatrician and Mrs. Obama’s point person on childhood obesity.
“It was a great meeting, and I think it’s going to lead to perhaps some very productive collaboration going forward,” said Dr. Andrus.
Dr. Andrus briefed Dr. Wong on PAHO/WHO’s ongoing work in the area of obesity and its preparations for the upcoming United Nations High-Level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases, scheduled for September in New York. The U.N. meeting will bring countries around the world together to discuss chronic diseases and their risk factors, including obesity in both children and adults, and ways to reduce their impact. In June, Aruba will host a meeting on childhood obesity for experts from PAHO/WHO member countries throughout the Americas, as a lead-up to the U.N. meeting.
“If we don’t tackle these problems by 2030, all the life expectancy gains we achieve in developing countries through immunization, safe water and sanitation will be reversed,” said Dr. Andrus. He added that it is important to have high-level political support for such efforts, recalling an example from the 1990s, when a campaign against neonatal tetanus spearheaded by the first ladies of Central America helped lead to the eliminate of that disease.
This week’s White House meeting grew out of an earlier collaboration between PAHO/WHO and the Obama administration during a trip by President and Mrs. Obama to Rio de Janeiro in March of this year. During the trip, PAHO/WHO helped organize a meeting for members of the First Lady’s “Let’s Move” staff with local organizations working on childhood obesity, to learn more about the challenges facing their work in Rio de Janeiro.
“Let’s Move” was launched by First Lady Michelle Obama in early 2010 to help find solutions to the growing problem of overweight and obesity among U.S. children. The campaign helps parents provide healthier food and lifestyle options for their children while helping schools improve the foods they serve to children and increase opportunities for physical activity.