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...from the publication: Eat Right Weekly - November 2

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ADA Representatives Attend Global Health Forum at the Italian Embassy

ADA member Camela Rising, MS, RD, LDN, past president of the American Overseas Dietetic Association, represented ADA recently at the 2011 Global Health Forum, "Obesity: Scientific, Lifestyle and Policy Approaches," that was held at the Italian Embassy in Washington, D.C. ADA member Mary Story, PhD, RD, professor at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, spoke on the importance of considering the socioecological framework to prevent and control obesity to influence positive and meaningful shifts in communities.

From Ms. Rising's account of the event:

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," Benjamin Franklin said, and this truism was reiterated by Rear Admiral (Ret.) Susan Blumenthal, MD, former deputy assistant secretary of Health and Human Services for Women’s Health, who moderated the forum.

Speakers including Dr. Blumenthal; Thomas Frieden, MD, MPH, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and William Colglazier, PhD, science and technology advisor to the U.S. Secretary of State, made opening remarks and a description of global obesity trends. Numerous researchers and leaders from institutions like the National Institutes of Health shared research alongside their Italian counterparts.

Also in attendance were Dr. Enrico Garaci, president of the Italian National Institutes of Health, and Italian physicians and scientists from all areas of Italy, who shared their research. Their presence demonstrated Italy's commitment to reversing the current trend toward obesity in their country.

The conference was opened by Giulio Maria Terzi di Sant'Agata, the Italian ambassador to the U.S., and Ferruccio Fazio, the Italian minister of health, who emphasized the active cooperation between the U.S. and Italy in the field of medical sciences, as demonstrated by a 2010 memorandum of understanding between the two countries. Although the obesity epidemic in Italy is not as profound as it is in the U.S., it is acknowledged by the Italian government that obesity is touching their country and is worsening, particularly in southern regions and the islands of Italy. As in the U.S., obesity in youth is a special concern.

Throughout the conference, themes included the importance of prevention at the forefront of every nation’s agenda; the necessity of involving all sectors of the community in prevention and treatment efforts; the value of an interdisciplinary exchange among professionals; and the fact that there is much more to be learned about obesity from all perspectives: scientific, medical and in the public health arena.

There were also particularly fascinating mentions about potential and evidence-based effectors of obesity, such as the effect of the fetal milieu and the role of epigenetics. Furthermore, the double burden of obesity (under- and overnutrition within the same community and even within the same family) and the obesity paradox (not all obese individuals have metabolic abnormalities) were hot topics. Psychological and behavioral factors were also discussed, such as the significant impact of the stigma of obesity and the fact that “bad” as well as “good” health is transmissible among peoples.

The conference was rounded out by policy, industry and media perspectives, with representation from the Italian company Barilla as well as PepsiCo, Edelman Public Relations, the Sesame Street Workshop, Aetna Foundation, Partnership for a Healthier America and Technogym. Each of the expert speakers from these organizations brought unique and internationally focused obesity interventions to the forefront of the conversation.

In sum, the Global Health Forum reminded all those who attended that no country has solved the obesity epidemic, therefore the sharing of knowledge is key to improving the future health and wellness of all people worldwide. To quote Dr. Blumenthal, who borrowed the words of President John F. Kennedy, solving the obesity epidemic is “the moonshot of our generation." We are the first generation that can look preventable disease in the eye with innovation so that it may be eradicated.


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