WPHNA is not in any way involved in the III World Congress of Public Health Nutrition.
It has come to my attention that there is ongoing confusion about the conferences organized by WPHNA and others of a similar name. The IIIrd World Congress of Public Health Nutrition, which will happen in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain, in November 2014, is being organized by the Sociedad Española de Nutrición Comunitaria. At no stage during the planning and organization of this meeting has WPHNA been involved. We are not financial or scientific supporters of that event. The only meetings we have been responsible for are our recent Oxford Meeting, and our previous World Nutrition Rio 2012 congress, both run with funds from registration fees, public sources and non-conflicted private sector support (excluding therefore the food industry).
As president, I am sorry that there is this confusion. It does not look good for our profession and weakens our efforts. Some historical perspective is required to clarify the situation. In 2006, the First World Congress of Public Health Nutrition was organized in Barcelona by the Sociedad Española de Nutrición Comunitaria, and chaired by Professor Luis Serra Majem. Before, and at that meeting, discussions were held about the potential desirability of forming an international association for public health nutrition. During the Barcelona meeting, several open meetings were held to discuss the idea, and a steering group was established to draft a constitution and establish a list of 100 founding members. After nearly two years of discussions and reviews of the Constitution, the Association was formally launched in 2008.
Elections were held to appoint the officers, and I was appointed president. The other candidate for president was Professor Serra Majem, who was then co-opted as a member of the Association Council. Without directly involving WPHNA, he organized the IInd World Congress of Public Health Nutrition, which was held in Porto in 2010. The Association contributed to that meeting by organizing a number of activities, and as scientific sponsors. The Association was not involved nor ever informed about the financial arrangements of that congress. The Council of the Association was not in agreement with the sponsorship that was present at the Porto meeting, and since then there has been no contact between Luis Serra Majem and WPHNA.
This division and confusion are regrettable. When we are at such a critical time in nutrition, it is unfortunate that this continues. WPHNA has tried to engage with Professor Serra Majem, but with no success. Some of our members have asked why we don’t just work together. We are willing to gather our efforts and be stronger as a unified group. However, the original and agreed founding constitution was clear regarding the engagement with the private sector. We are not against engaging with the private sector as a general rule. But our constitution forbids us from working with those in the private sector that have interests that are not compatible with public health. The Las Palmas meeting clearly does not comply with our ethical standards and policy on conflicts of interest, as it is being supported by, among others, Coca-Cola and Nestle. For that reason, we are unable to support the IIIrd World Congress of Public Health Nutrition as it is today.
But we are open for dialogue. We welcome a contact from the Sociedad Española de Nutrición Comunitaria and Professor Luis Serra Majem, so that together we can work to find common ground, based on the vision we all once had in Barcelona in 2006. We would also appreciate feedback and views from members and Association supporters regarding this important issue for our profession.
The Association continues to plan for our next major international congress, which will be run in 2016. We are not planning to run any other meetings before that date. We had originally planned to hold the 2016 congress in Delhi, India, but for a number of reasons we can no longer go ahead with this meeting location. We are in discussions with a number of centres regarding hosting our next meeting and will publish information about this in due course.