Past Program

Program Overview

Overweight and obesity affect over 2 billion people worldwide, causing at least 2.8 million deaths annually.  An estimate of the economic cost is 2.8% of global GDP.  Since the 1970s the prevalence of excess weight has more than tripled across populations around the world to 13 %, but among children the proportion has reached 18% (over 30% in the United States).  There is variation in this but projections continue to show an upward trend in most countries, with  persistent and deep disparities and profound consequences for physical and mental health.  Given the complexities involved in this phenomenon, what can be done about it? 

Over the past decade, our collective understanding of the systems, forces, and conditions that impact childhood obesity has evolved. Increasingly, initiatives in this area have focused on policy and environmental changes. In many parts of the world, we have moved forward as we have shifted national conversations and public discourse away from just personal responsibility to an understanding that it is also the systems and policies that shape our ability to live well and access opportunities for healthy eating and physical activity.

There is increasing recognition that the systems and policies that drive obesity in childhood are the same systems that broadly impact the health and well-being of children and families.  What this means is that we are unlikely to solve the childhood obesity crisis unless we are widening our lens to think about broad changes, such as policies that better support families. Until we address the broader determinants of obesity and barriers to its treatment in low income and minority populations, the current disparities in the prevalence of obesity and other chronic diseases will persist and may even increase. The epidemic of childhood obesity is deeply intertwined with related challenges around food access, income inequality, a fragile safety net, inadequate public transportation, and the scarcity of affordable housing. One of the most pressing challenges for preventing and controlling the global epidemic is to ensure that the public health interventions that are being deployed are reaching and benefitting the most socially disadvantaged populations.

This Salzburg Global program will highlight how global innovations and ideas in the childhood obesity prevention space could help optimize health outcomes for children everywhere. Building on Salzburg Global’s long-standing series on health systems transformation, including last year’s seminar on creating healthy environments and shared value for children, and on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s approach to a Culture of Health, this program will enable participants from across the world to review strategies and consider adaption in different contexts to enable all children to grow up at a healthy weight.

Read the Halting the Childhood Obesity Epidemic: Identifying Decisive Interventions in Complex Systems Newsletters

Program and General Information

The program can be downloaded here.

The general information can be downloaded here.

Newsletters from the program can be downloaded here.

Virtual Library

Atlas of Child Obesity. World Obesity, 2019.

Arantxa Colchero, M. Sustained consumer response: evidence from two-years after implementing the sugar sweetened beverage tax in Mexico, Health Aff (Millwood). 2017 Mar 1.

Backholer, Kathryn, and others. A Framework for Evaluating the Impact of Obesity Prevention Strategies on Socioeconomic Inequalities in Weight, PMC, October 2014.

Bergmeier, Heidi, and others. Early mother-child dyadic pathways to childhood obesity risk: A conceptual model, ScienceDirect, Volume 144, 1 January 2020.

Canhada, Scheine Leite, and others. Ultra-processed foods, incident overweight and obesity, and longitudinal changes in weight and waist circumference: the Brazilian Longitudinal Study of Adult Health (ELSA-Brasil), Public Health Nutrition, 2019.

Farpour-Lambert, N.J., Childhood Obesity Is a Chronic Disease Demanding Specific Health Care - a Position Statement from the Childhood Obesity Task Force (COTF) of the European Association for the Study of Obesity (EASO), ObesityFacts, 2015.

FAO/WHO: The Nutrition Challenge.

Fischer, Edward. Beyond Nutrition: Eating, Innovation, and Cultures of Possibility, Sight and Life, 2017/07.

Healthy Eating Pyramid. Nutrition Australia.

Kannter, Rebecca, and others. Anticipatory effects of the implementation of the Chilean Law of Food Labeling and Advertising on food and beverage product reformulation, ObesityReviews, 27 June, 2019.

Kumanyika, Shiriki K. A Framework for Increasing Equity Impact in Obesity Prevention, American Journal of Public Health, 4 June, 2019.

Ministry of Health of Brazil. Dietary Guidelines for the Brazilian Population, 2015.

Mozaffarian, Darish, and others. History of modern nutrition science—implications for current research, dietary guidelines, and food policy, BMJ, 13 June, 2018.

Obesity Evidence Hub.

Obesity Policy Coalition. What we Do: Tipping the Scales.

Odoms-Young, Angela. Examining the Impact of Structural Racism on Food Insecurity: Implications for Addressing Racial/Ethnic Disparities, PMC 2019 April 1.

Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization. Ultra-processed Food and Drink Products in Latin America: Sales, Sources, Nutrient Profiles and Policy Implications, 2019.

Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization. Plan of Action for the Prevention of Obesity in Children and Adolescents, 2014.

Perez-Escamilla, Rafael, and others. Dietary guidelines for children under 2 years of age in the context of nurturing care, Wiley Online Libray, 25 June, 2019.

Perez-Escamilla, Rafael, and others. Feeding Guidelines for Infants and Young Toddlers: A Responsive Parenting Approach, Healthy Eating Research, February 2017.

Perez-Escamilla, Rafael. Nutrition Disparities and the Global Burden of Malnutrition, BMJ, 13 June, 2018.

Perez-Escamilla, Rafael, and others. Prevention of childhood obesity and food policies in Latin America: from research to practice, ObesityReviews, 25 July, 2017.

Reyes, Marcela, and others. Development of the Chilean front-of-package food warning label, BMC Public Health, 2019.

Singal Louise N., and others. Children’s everyday exposure to food marketing: an objective analysis using wearable cameras, International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 2017.

Skouteris, Helen. Commentary: Obesity and Weight Gain in Pregnancy and Postpartum: an Evidence Review of Lifestyle Interventions to Inform Maternal and Child Health Policies, Front Endocrinol, 2019.

Swinburn, Boyd. Power Dynamics in 21st-Century Food Systems, Nutrients, 2019.

The Eatwell Guide

Veatupu, Loma, and others. Me’akai in Tonga: Exploring the Nature and Context of the Food Tongan Children Eat in Ha’apai Using Wearable Cameras, Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health, 2019.

Whitaker, Robert C. The Childhood Obesity Epidemic: Lessons for Preventing Socially Determined Health Conditions, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.

Key Questions

  • What might be the key driver to prioritize, the most transformative, evidence-based approach to childhood obesity prevention we could pursue today, that would impact disparities in prevalence rates – and where we could see a measurable impact within 3 to 5 years?
  • What are the most critical conditions that are impacting our children’s risks of obesity? What specific innovations, policies, and practices around the world have most successfully addressed those, developing new approaches and achieving better, more equitable outcomes in childhood obesity?
  • Through cost effectiveness analysis studies, sugar-sweetened beverage excise tax has been found to be the most cost effective policy strategy and one that will improve the health of the population and reduce health disparities.  Where has this  strategy proved most effective; what are the greatest challenges to this strategy; and how can they be mitigated.
  • What are the most significant changes to the food and beverage industry that could have the biggest impact?  How do we get companies to make those changes? Where does industry self-regulation work best vs governmental regulation?What is the potential impact in bringing together healthcare, public health and social services – to change the supports that children and families at risk receive and to address childhood adverse experiences contributing to obesity?  What else may need to be done in the critical window of early childhood to address the obesity epidemic?
  • How can we ensure that philanthropy or human/social service organizations, in healthcare, and in thought leadership and political life, understand, and act on, the change of culture needed to ensure equitable access to food and exercise?

Session Format

This five-day highly-interactive session, held at Schloss Leopoldskron, home of Salzburg Global Seminar, will prioritize opportunities for cross-border sharing and learning. Participants will focus on building new insights and aggregating perspectives and experiences from relevant sectors, areas of expertise and regions. Working groups, each with a thematic and/or country focus, will prepare recommendations for action by diffrent target audiences.

Participant Profile

Salzburg Global Seminar’s Health and Health Care Innovation sessions seek to bring together cross-sector and crossgenerational change-makers to tackle complex challenges. This program will bring together 60 innovators and stakeholders from around the world who have engaged families, communities and policymakers in integrated approaches to tackle the obesity epidemic. The group will span perspectives from community and civil society organizations; nutrition, education, psychology and behavioral science; urban planning and physical activity; local and national government; business and the media; and philanthropy.

Outcomes and Impact

  • Seed new and innovative approaches through international and cross-border exchange and the transmission of best practice.
  • Create the basis for ongoing networking and collaborations among participants and the institutions they represent.
  • Co-create action plans designed and agreed by participants for them to take forward as appropriate at local and regional levels, and to leverage the global scope of the project to influence public opinion and democratic debate and policymaking, supporting their projects through small grants/incubation funding.



Michaela Adamowitsch
Scientific Expert in Nutrition and Health Promotion, Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety (AGES), Austria
Soledad Barruti
Independent Journalist, Author and Speaker on food systems in Latin America, Argentina
Scott Berns
President and CEO, National Institute for Children's Health Quality, USA
Jeanette Betancourt
Senior Vice President for US Social Impact, Sesame Workshop, USA
Niki Bezzant
Writer, Speaker and Commentator; Founding Editor, Healthy Food Guide Magazine; Columnist, New Zealand Herald, New Zealand
Ana Paula Bortoletto Martins
Leader of the Healthy Diets Program, Institute for Consumers Protection (IDEC), Brazil
Renee Boynton-Jarrett
Associate Professor, Boston Medical Center and Boston University School of Medicine, USA
Vincent Busch
Senior Researcher, Sarphati Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Mary-Ann Carter
Manager of Nutrition and Physical Activity, Ministry of Health, New Zealand
Alexandra Chung
Ph.D. Candidate, Global Obesity Centre (GLOBE), Deakin University, and School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Australia
Angélica María Claro
Advocacy Director, Red PaPaz, Colombia
Shirley Cramer
Chief Executive, Royal Society for Public Health, United Kingdom
Sarah Czernin
Research Assistant, Austrian Academic Institute for Clinical Nutrition, Austria
Shaun Danielli
Director, Healthy London Partnership, United Kingdom
Martha Davis
Senior Program Officer, Robert Wood Johson Foundation
Diana Delgadillo Ramírez
Public Policy Advocacy Manager, The Hunger Project Mexico (THP-Mexico), Mexico
Jaime Delgado
Director, Consumer Institute of the University San Martín de Porres; Coordinator, Platform for Healthy Food, Peru
William Dietz
Chair, Sumner M. Redstone Global Center for Prevention and Wellness, School of Public Health, George Washington University, USA
Pasha Elstak
Project and Process Manager, Amsterdam Healthy Weight Programme, The Netherlands
Mihela Erjavec
Senior Lecturer, School of Psychology, Bangor University; Co-Founder, Centre for Activity and Eating Research, UK
Ron Finley
CEO, The Ron Finley Project, USA
Edward Fischer
Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Anthropology, Director, Center for Latin American Studies, Vanderbilt University, USA
Kay Gibbons
Adjunct Professor, Institute of Health and Sport, Victoria University, Australia
Jemma Gilbert
Director of Transformation, Healthy London Partnership, United Kingdom
Marie Gombert
Ph.D. Student, University of Valencia, Spain
Steve Gortmaker
Professor, Practice of Health Sociology, Harvard Chan School of Public Health Prevention Research Center on Nutrition and Physical Activity (HPRC)
Kevin Hall
Tenured Senior Investigator, National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), USA
Corinna Hawkes
Director, Centre for Food Policy at City, University of London, United Kingdom
Sarah Hickey
Program Director, Guy's & St.Thomas' Charity, United Kingdom
Sally Hughes
Acting Manager, Health Improvement Team, Auckland Regional Public Health Service, New Zealand
Genoveva Islas
Founder and Director, Cultiva La Salud, USA
Enrique Jacoby
Former Vice-Minister of Health; Former Regional Advisor on Nutrition at PAHO/WHO, Peru
Dominic Jones
Senior Advisor to the Prevention Program, Healthy London Partnership, United Kingdom
Katharine Kreis
Director of Strategic Initiatives and Lead for Nutrition Innovation, PATH, USA
Ana Larrañaga
Mexican Activis, Nutritionist, Lactation Consultant, Mexico
Rosalind Louth
Senior Delivery Manager, Health Team, Greater London Authority, United Kingdom
Athar Mansoor
Civil Servant; Ph.D. Candidate in Public Policy at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
Jane Martin
Executive Manager, Obesity Policy Coalition, Australia
Sandiso Mchiza
Digital Graphic Designer, CILT Department, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Zandile Mchiza
Associate Professor, School of Public Health, the University of the Western Cape, South Africa
Lindiwe Mlandu
Content Producer and Social Media Manager, Cape Community Newspapers, South Africa
Margot Neveux
Policy and Projects Coordinator, World Obesity Federation, France
Angela Odoms-Young
Associate Professor, Department of Kinesiology and Nutrition, College of Applied Health Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago, USA
Rafael Perez-Escamilla
Professor of Public Health and Director, Global Health Concentration and Office of Public Health Practice, Yale School of Public Health, USA
Laura Platenkamp
Senior Associate, Urban Governance for Nutrition, Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, The Netherlands
Mapihi Raharuhi
Lead, Healthy Families NZ Maori Roopu, New Zealand
LaDonna Redmond
Intercultural Development Consultant, Columinate, USA
Dominic Schofield
CEO, Peregrine Impact Associates, Canada
Louise Signal
Director, Health Promotion and Policy Research Unit, University of Otago, Wellington, New Zealand
Mário Silva
Executive President, Portuguese Association Against Childhood Obesity, Portugal
Helen Skouteris
Monash Warwick Professor in Healthcare Improvement and Implementation Science, Monash University, Australia
Duncan Stephenson
Deputy CEO, Royal Society for Public Health, UK
Mary Story
Professor in Global Health and Family Medicine and Community Health, Duke University, USA
Carley Symms
Director of Programs, ELMA Philanthropies Services, South Africa
Rich Taunt
Kaleidoscope Health and Care, UK
Rachel Thompson
Policy Fellow, World Obesity Federation, United Kingdom
Louise Tully
Ph.D. Candidate, Royal College of Surgeons, Ireland
Carina Vance
Former Minister of Public Health, Ecuador
Wilma Waterlander
Senior Researcher LIKE, Amsterdam UMC, University of Amsterdam, Department of Public Health, The Netherlands
Louisa Whettam
Cultural Practice Advisor, Opportunity Child, Australia