Promoting ‘a healthy sustainable future’, the UN health agency engages young and young at heart to 'Walk the Talk'

In the lead up to Monday’s 72nd annual World Health Assembly (WHA), the World Health Organization (WHO) gathered people of all ages and abilities for a free walk/run event that ranged from three to eight kilometres.  

Health advocates and the general public joined Assembly delegates and the UN family in recognizing the value of healthy lifestyles and the importance of all people having access the health services.  

“Today is not only about sport”, said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “It is about promoting health for all”. 

Special guest Margaret Kenyatta, First Lady of Kenya, said that “physical activity has always been the lifelong secret to healthy lives and longevity for the people and communities around the world.”  

According to WHO, the Walk movement promotes “physical activity as part of a healthy sustainable future”.  

“This event is not about racing to cross the line first”, said participant and Kenyan marathon runner Mary Keitany. “It is about promoting the importance of physical activity, whether walking, jogging, using your wheelchair or dancing, to be healthier.”  

One of the world’s leading long-distance runners, Eritrean-born Swiss champion Tadesse Abraham, said he was “thrilled” to take part because running is just “one of many ways people can move and be healthier”.  

“You don’t need to be a professional athlete to get moving for health,” he affirmed. 

But the event was not limited to good physical health.  

Cynthia Germanotta, Lady Gaga’s mother, participated to raise the profile of mental health. She shared her first-hand experience of some of the challenges her famous daughter faced and officially launched a new global campaign called “Speak Your Mind” to prioritize and understand mental illness. 

Princess Dina Mirad of Jordan advocated for cancer control and Zaleka Mandela, Nelson Mandela’s grandaughter, for healthy lifestyles.  

Participants also practiced yoga, zumba, basketball, hockey and a host of other activities. 

And Nigerian songwriter Korede Bello kept the festivities melodiously upbeat, singing his own songs and other popular favourites. 

“We have all come together to demonstrate one thing”, the WHO chief said: “We cannot take health for granted”.  

Health care on the agenda 

On Monday, global health experts will converge at the annual WHA, under the theme Universal Health Coverage, to work towards creating a world where everyone has equal access to affordable, quality health care.  

Other timely discussions will include health impacts of climate change and global health threats. The Assembly will meet through 28 May. 

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