Another Year Wiser: Bringing New Perspectives to the GBCHealth Annual Conference

By Meghan Johnson, GBCHealth Social Media Corps

I was thrilled to learn that I had been invited back to this year’s GBC Health Conference. The previous year’s event is still fresh in my memory – I formed both professional and personal relationships, gained knowledge, spurred new ideas – and not to mention the food. The food was superb. I couldn’t wait to book my train back to Manhattan for this year’s event.

In the past year, I’ve experienced several significant life changes, which I hope will only add to the perspective and knowledge that I bring to my coverage of this year’s sessions. In December, I graduated with two master’s degrees and left both Tufts University and the city of Boston behind for a position at a public health consulting firm in Washington D.C. Only a few short days after I completed my final exams, I swapped “the T” for “the Metro” and frigid winters for swampy summers.

While I’ve been settling into my new surroundings, a trip to New York is always welcome. This year’s conference agenda proves to be just as diverse as last year’s with regard to the vast array of topics that fall under the umbrella of global health. I will be covering several sessions that are uniquely tied to my own public health studies and personal interests; namely chronic disease prevention and food policy.

The session I am most excited to cover is A Conversation with Michael Moss. To prepare for the session, I have been reading – no, I have become engrossed in – his new book Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us. Not only do I love that someone is shedding light on the brilliantly deceptive ways that food industry giants have hijacked the American palette over the last several decades; the fact that Michael Moss, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, is the one to do so is nearly too good to be true.

I am also anticipating From Dialogue to Action: How Countries are Addressing Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) after the UN High-Level Meeting. Much attention has been devoted to addressing communicable diseases in developing nations (such as HIV/AIDs, Malaria, and Tuberculosis) – as it should be – but increasingly, these countries are also seeing a parallel rise in chronic illnesses that are highly preventable.

For example, at last year’s conference the First Lady of South Africa, Madam Bongi Ngema-Zuma, discussed her foundation that addresses the rise in incidence of type 2 diabetes cases in South Africa, and the need for more resources to support her work. Cancer, diabetes, hypertension, and obesity are not only diseases of “wealthy” nations, but are global plagues that can be managed and even prevented altogether through well-informed and funded primary care systems. I look forward to learning more about what the UN’s political declaration on NCDs will mean for those countries committed to establishing NCD national plans by 2013.

Lastly, I must admit that I am eagerly awaiting Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s key note speech. Ever since watching his documentary, Street Fight, I’ve been following his efforts to turn Newark around, and specifically to bring attention to food insecurity and the challenges faced by families relying on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). I hope I’ll have the opportunity to shake his hand and say, “Keep fighting the good fight.”