In order to highlight the importance of World Health Day, we asked Derek Yach, PepsiCo’s Senior Vice President for Global Health Policy, a few questions.
What is World Health Day?
World Health Day 2010 is today, April 7. The theme this year is ‘1000 cities, 1000 lives’ and the focus is on opening up public spaces to health – via things like activities in parks, town hall meetings, clean-up campaigns, or closing off portions of streets to motorized vehicles. The World Health Organization aims to collect 1000 stories of urban health champions who have taken action and had a significant impact on health in their cities. Events are being held this week in cities all over the world in order to promote health in urban areas.
Why the focus on urbanization and health?
Currently over 3 billion people live in cities and over the next 30 years virtually all population growth will be in urban areas. The urban poor also suffer disproportionately from a wide range of diseases and other health problems. Health outcomes are determined from environmental, social and physical infrastructure conditions and other factors that are often affected by rapid, unplanned urbanization. From the diet and physical activity point of view, urban environments tend to discourage physical activity and promote unhealthy food consumption. Issues such as overcrowding, pollution and lack of safe public spaces make physical activity difficult in many cities. Urban environments also have a greater supply of energy-dense, nutrition-poor foods with high levels of fat, sugar and salt. A fast paced, urban lifestyle also usually increases the amount of fast foods available. In 2003, the date of the last WHO World Health Survey, at least half the countries studied reported about a 70% prevalence of insufficient intake of fruits and vegetables in urban areas.
What is PepsiCo doing to help?
PepsiCo is one of the largest food and beverage companies in the world and serves people in over 200 countries. We have a responsibility to serve our diverse consumer base – including of course those who live in urban areas. Performance with Purpose – our promise to deliver sustainable growth by investing in a healthier future for people and our planet – drives our work. As part of our PwP commitment we recently announced a number of global goals to guide us over the next decade.
While all of our global goals can have a direct impact on the health of people in urban areas, there are some additional opportunities as highlighted by the World Health Organization where PepsiCo can play a critical role. For example, the major drivers of health in urban settings go beyond the health sector. Social determinants – such as infrastructure, access to social and health services, local governance, educational opportunities and distribution of income – often converge in urban settings to strongly influence health status. Chronic health issues such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity are all driven by these social determinants that can’t be solved by the health sector alone. This makes it critical that companies such as PepsiCo are participants – along with municipalities, civil society and individuals – in the solution for healthier cities. PepsiCo is committed to engaging with global partners, and is taking a proactive role in dedicating resources that allow us to address the nutritional needs of underserved and lower income communities.
Another important way PepsiCo contributes is by supporting its own employees in their efforts to be healthy. We aim to provide an environment that encourages healthy eating and physical activity. Our corporate headquarters are on a beautiful campus complete with running and walking trails and an onsite gym. We encourage people to recognize World Health Day by doing something active today at work, or on the way home and to think about ways they can make the environments where they live healthier.