Derek Yach

Dr. Derek Yach is Senior Vice President of Global Health and Agriculture Policy at PepsiCo where he leads the internal Global Human Sustainability Task Force and engagement with major international policy, research and scientific groups.

Previously he has headed global health at the Rockefeller Foundation, been Professor of Public Health and head of the Division of Global Health at Yale University. He is also a former executive director of the World Health Organization (WHO). Dr. Yach has spearheaded several major efforts to improve global health. At the WHO he served as cabinet director under Director-General Gro Harlem Brundtland. Dr. Yach helped place tobacco control, nutrition and chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease prominently on the agenda of governments, non-governmental organizations and the private sector. He led development of WHO’s first treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, and the development of the Global Strategy on Diet and Physical Activity.

As a South African national, Dr. Yach established the Centre for Epidemiological Research at the South African Medical Research Council ,which focused on quantifying inequalities and the impact of urbanization on health. He has authored or co-authored over 200 articles covering the breadth of global health issues. Dr Yach serves on several advisory boards including those of the Clinton Global Initiative, the World Economic Forum, the PAHEF Foundation, the Oxford Health Alliance and Vitality USA.

Dr. Yach received his Doctor of Science with honors from Georgetown University and his Master in public health from Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health. He received his Bachelor of Science in epidemiology from the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa, and his Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery degree from the University of Cape Town Medical School in South Africa.

Displaying all posts from this author: Derek Yach

The Benefits of Chickpeas

PepsiCo’s Global Health and Agriculture Policy team recently worked with professors at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem to organize a meeting on Chickpea Plant and Nutrition Science in Tel Aviv, Israel. The conference brought together experts in health, agriculture, and food engineering to offer insights into the cultivation, nutritional benefits and food processing characteristics of chickpea. We were pleased to be joined by representatives from the Strauss Group, a leading Israeli food company and our partners in a joint venture under the Sabra brand, Ethiopian agriculture experts, Israeli technicians, and an expert from the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT). The Middle East seemed a natural location to hold the meeting because its history of crop domestication and intersecting trade routes corresponds with a natural biodiversity of species. In fact, we were delighted to find wild populations of chickpea, barley, and wheat... Read more

PepsiCo at the Vision 2020 Conference

Last week, we represented PepsiCo at the Vision 2020 Conference on “Leveraging Agriculture for Improving Nutrition and Health” in New Delhi. The conference, organized by the International Food Policy Research Institute, was opened by India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. PepsiCo was the only private sector sponsor of the conference, along with international development agencies and development banks. Read more

New Reports with Profound Implications for PepsiCo’s Approach to Food and Farming

Two reports were recently released within a week of each other that highlight the continued presence of hunger in a world where obesity is increasing, and the long-term consequences for the environment given current farming practices in many parts of the world. Both are worth reading and have implications for PepsiCo. The first report, ‘2011 State of the World: Innovations that Nourish the Planet’, was produced by the Worldwatch Institute. The report is based on two years of extensive reviews of farming and food across Africa. It highlights the centrality of women as the major contributors to farming, the massive post harvest losses that remain common, and the importance of taking an ecological approach to addressing soil health. It is illustrated with many optimistic stories of real progress in boosting productivity in a continent that contains over 250 million of the world’s 1 billion hungry. The second... Read more

In Response to Recent Comments from Readers

Food Frontiers readers have asked several questions related to the integrity of food industry scientists, whether all food company actions must lead to increased profits, and the need to place the full text of speeches and comments in the public domain. Let me address each. Read more

European Association for the Study of Obesity/Karolinska Institute pre-International Congress on Obesity Meeting

This week I’m attending the International Congress on Obesity in Stockholm. In addition to being a presenter, I had the opportunity to participate in a pre-conference meeting for select presenters. Following Sunday’s meeting, I came away with some thoughts I wanted to share with you. The meeting provided a chance to preview several major papers and discussion themes that will be highlighted during the ICO. Since the last ICO meeting  (4 years ago) there has been a continued unabated upward trend in obesity. The only notable exceptions being in some European countries where evidence of a slowdown is appearing. The most rapid increases are being reported in emerging markets.   Boyd Swinburn from Australia highlighted the need to simultaneously address socio-cultural and behavioral factors while tackling environmental and policy issues. Several examples of “obesogenic” socio-cultural factors were provided based on research in diverse populations in the Asia-Pacific region.... Read more

The Critical Role of the Food Industry in the Obesity Debate

The highly-regarded Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Trust for America’s Health this week published the seventh annual edition of “F as in Fat”, a report on obesity in the U.S.  The report includes commentary by a variety of notable public figures.   Among them is PepsiCo Chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi. The fact that the report would include comments from the leader of a food company, particularly one whose product portfolio includes treats like soft drinks and potato chips, has drawn some criticism.  The critics seem to feel there is no place for a food industry viewpoint in such a report. I disagree. To suggest PepsiCo and other food companies should not have a voice in the discussion of how to address global obesity seems counterproductive. The UK Foresight Report on Obesity and the White House Report on Obesity both have spelled out roles industry can play in preventing obesity... Read more

Reflections from the Global Health Council 2010

For 35 years, the Global Health Council has focused on critical needs in health and has often raised the clarion call for emerging public health challenges. These have included AIDS, children’s health, reproductive rights of women, and the spread of infectious diseases. This year, progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) was the central theme and I participated in the opening plenary along with Tessa Wadlow from UNICEF, Ambassador Wegger Strommen from Norway, Minister of Health Kakooza from Uganda, and Sering Falu Njie from the UN Millennium Campaign. With 5 years to go before the MDG goals, set in 1990, need to be achieved, there was strong evidence of progress on several global health goals. Progress includes improved access to water, declines in under nutrition, sharp increases in vaccine coverage, and greater access to malaria bed nets. However, the attainment of these goals remains uneven with... Read more

Role of Industry Highlighted in New Report on Cardiovascular Health in the Developing World

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) released a report today called, “Promoting Cardiovascular Health in the Developing World: A Critical Challenge to Achieving Global Health.” The report is of great interest to my colleagues at PepsiCo and me because it mentions the important role of the private sector in addressing cardiovascular disease (CVD) around the world. It’s also important to note that I served as an IOM committee member for this report and Mehmood Khan and George Mensah’s paper, Changing Practices to Improve Dietary Outcomes and Reduce Cardiovascular Risk: A Food Company’s Perspective, is cited. The report highlights the reality that heart disease and stroke are the leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for 28% of all deaths. Death rates in developing countries such as China, India and Mexico have become much higher than those in developed countries. Of growing concern is that deaths occur up to... Read more

A Millennium Development Goal Update

Last week I participated in Agenda 2010: The Turning Point On Poverty sponsored by the UK Department for International Development (DFID). The conference recognized the progress being made towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals but focused primarily on the MDGs on which the international community is failing to make the most progress: hunger and nutrition, and education and health. The conference addressed conditions needed to enable the MDGs to be met, including economic growth, stable states, the empowerment of women and tackling climate change. PepsiCo was one of two food companies, along with Unilever, invited to participate along with over 80 technical experts, key ministers and policy makers from developing countries. Of particular interest was DFID unveiling their first global under nutrition program which targets six countries. Two of them, Nigeria and India, coincide with work PepsiCo is doing in those countries on under-nutrition. I also was... Read more

PepsiCo’s Global Approach to Selling Beverages in Schools

I am pleased to highlight our new global policy to stop the sale of full-sugar soft drinks to primary and secondary schools by 2012. This voluntary commitment makes PepsiCo the first major beverage company to implement such a consistent global approach. The policy details were drawn up based on discussions with the World Heart Federation which exemplifies our belief that working in collaboration with a variety of partners is the best way to make a difference in the health of people around the world. We are working with our bottlers, vending companies and distributors – along with parents, community leaders, and school officials around the world – to help make school settings conducive to the health of students. This global school beverage policy advances our existing commitments to reducing calories in schools by offering students a wider range of low-calorie and nutritious beverages in appropriate portions. For... Read more

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