Healthy Children, Healthy Weight - Locating the Drivers of Wellbeing

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Dec 12, 2018
by Oscar Tollast
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Healthy Children, Healthy Weight - Locating the Drivers of Wellbeing

Salzburg Global Fellows consider what the drivers are of a strong sense of collective responsibility for the health and wellbeing of all children and their families Participants in discussion during a plenary session held in Parker Hall

By improving children’s health and wellbeing now, we set them and our societies up for a better future. This idea was one of several messages shared on the first day of Healthy Children, Healthy Weight.

The five-day program, organized by Salzburg Global Seminar and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, has brought together experts from 15 countries. Participants are prioritizing opportunities for cross-border sharing and learning.

During the first plenary session on Tuesday, participants considered, “What are the drivers of a strong sense of collective responsibility for the health and wellbeing of all children and their families, and of a commitment to equity with respect to economic, ethnic and/or migrant status?”

One participant mooted there were many evidence-based programs which worked, but the equity gap between those with access to opportunities and those without was growing. She called for a focus on people, place, and power.

Participants considered the value of having a space to innovate and a chance to fail. When dealing with children’s futures, however, the tolerance for failure is a lot more limited.

In some areas of the world, a change in mindset will be needed from “Me to We,” participants agreed. There should be an obligation from all to provide for children’s wellbeing - everyone’s children matter.

Participants were also urged to look toward other countries and share models of best practice. “Borrow shamelessly,” adapt to your context, and take advantage of other people’s experiences, participants heard.

As the conversation continued, another participant spoke of the need to move beyond decorative social participation, to empower people, and break down existing structures which are proving to be detrimental.

These talking points and more were discussed further within table groups. Reporting back, participants considered the effect of election cycles on long-term work and funding and the importance of involving young people in relevant discussions. One participant suggested she knew children who didn’t like being referred to as “the future” because they see themselves as here now. An essential factor of someone’s wellbeing, child or adult, is their ability to participate, participants heard.

As the session concluded, several participants agreed that different types of evidence needed to be valued, while others spoke of the need for more participatory modes of evaluation.


The program Healthy Children, Healthy Weight is part of Salzburg Global's multi-year series Health and Health Care Innovation. This year’s program is being held in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.