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How Mexico Stood Up to Big Soda and What Latin America Is Doing in the Fight Against Obesity

Alejandro Calvillo Unna, founder and director of Mexico’s El Poder del Consumidor (The Power of the Consumer) discussed how Mexico, where more than 70% of the population is overweight or obese, defied the powerful beverage industry and succeeded in passing a soda tax that has successfully reduced consumption. The event was moderated by Paula Johns, co-founder and director of ACT Health Promotion, Brazil, and a leading public health activist. Brazil is also deeply engaged in efforts to promote healthier food and to reduce obesity.

About the Speakers

Alejandro Calvillo Unna
Alejandro Calvillo Unna was part of the group that founded Greenpeace Mexico. He worked at Greenpeace for 12 years, eight years as a climate campaigner and five years as executive director and campaign director. He founded El Poder del Consumidor (The Power of the Consumer) in 2006, where he serves as the current director. El Poder del Consumidor has played a central role in building support for several policies in Mexico that aim to reduce obesity, including: a tax on sugary drinks; mandatory regulation of food and beverages inside schools; and regulation of marketing aimed at children. He is a member of The Lancet Commission on Obesity and has served on advisory groups to the World Health Organization.

Paula Johns, Moderator
Paula Johns was born and grew up in Brazil. She obtained a master’s degree in English and international development studies in Denmark, at Roskilde University Center. She is the co-founder and director of ACT Health Promotion (former Alliance for the Control of Tobacco Use), a Brazilian coalition of more than 1,000 members, created in 2003 to support the process of ratification and implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in Brazil. Since 2013, ACT has expanded its scope of work to include noncommunicable diseases. ACT is also one of the leading organizations of the Alliance for Healthy Diets formed in 2016 to support food policy issues. Johns has been a presenter at conferences and events on tobacco control and risk factors for NCDs, as well as advocacy and civil society mobilization issues nationally and internationally. She is also a former chair of the board of directors of the Framework Convention Alliance, board member of the NCD Alliance, board member of the Interamerican Heart Foundation and board member of GAPA–Global Alcohol Policy Alliance. Johns is also an Ashoka Fellow.