Medellín, Cali and Bogota sent food policy experts to a Partnership for Healthy Cities workshop last week to pick up tips from Vital Strategies and from each other about dealing with soaring obesity problems—especially among children.
“In just one year, the obesity rate in Cali increased more than 25 percent,” according to Olga Rosaura Varona, a school nutritionist who works with her city’s health department and attended the workshop.
“People don’t understand the connection between processed food and the damage to children,” she said, noting that malnutrition rates are also very high in her city.
The two-day Bogota workshop, which drew nine participants, was a chance to review each city’s goals for implementing new school food policies under the Partnership, and to look at the crisis through a national lens.
It was conducted by Vital Strategies Associate Director Alexey Kotov; the Partnership’s Latin America Program Officer, Mariana Espinoza Estrada; and Maria Fernanda Cardenas, Vital Strategies’ Communication Manager in Colombia.
Cali, Bogota and Medellín signed up with the Partnership for Healthy Cities earlier this year. The details of their initiatives will be announced next month. The hope is that these three sprawling metropolises can eventually serve as models for smaller Colombian cities facing the same issues with obesity and unhealthy eating.
They are among more than 50 cities in the Partnership, a global network committed to saving lives by preventing noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) and injuries that is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies in partnership with Vital Strategies and the World Health Organization (WHO).