Virginia Tech Professor Advises U.S. Delegation To World Health Assembly

GENEVA, June 4, 2003 – Dr. Maureen Storey, research associate professor and acting director of the Virginia Tech Center for Food and Nutrition Policy, was tapped to serve as a private sector adviser to U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson during the recent World Health Assembly.

She attended the 56th World Health Assembly, the annual meeting of the 192 member states of the World Health Organization, or WHO. The meeting was held from May 19 to May 28.

Highlights of this year's Assembly included the appointment of a new WHO Director-General, and the adoption of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, WHO's first global treaty. Among the key global public health issues discussed at the Assembly were the latest information on SARS, HIV/AIDS, tobacco control, the post-conflict health challenges in Iraq, and violence prevention.

Storey attended the meeting to keep abreast of discussion on the WHO's strategy to address worldwide issues of diet, nutrition, and chronic diseases. A global strategy is scheduled to be presented at the Assembly next year as the capstone to a three-year effort to dampen a worldwide increase in obesity rates.

In a critique last year of the first draft of a WHO report addressing those issues, Storey and other health and nutrition experts urged the international organization to re-write the report to include physical activity and fitness as factors in preventing obesity. They also urged the body to reconsider proposed policy recommendations that imposed food taxes as a means of discouraging consumption of foods the report's authors deemed unacceptable. Finally, the group called for a revised report to be reviewed by a panel of experts in nutrition, physical activity, and various aspects of food production.

"This is an important issue because the strategies will result in national and global policies," Storey said. "To be effective, those policies must be built on a reliable scientific foundation, especially when governmental financial resources are stretched as much as they are today."

Virginia Tech's Center for Food and Nutrition Policy, an organization looked to by national policy makers, is located in Northern Virginia. In 1999, the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization named it a center of excellence.

The mission of the center is to advance rational, science-based food and nutrition policy. The mechanisms for accomplishing the mission include research, outreach, public service, teaching and communications. The center conducts the CeresĀ® Forum, seminars and conferences presented globally for corporate executives and senior public policy makers on issues related to food and nutrition.