At WHO's Western Pacific office, 'sitting is the new smoking'

By Jenny Lei Ravelo 03 May 2016

A sign encouraging WHO staff members at the Western Pacific office in Manila, Philippines, to use the stairs instead of the elevator. The regional office has launched a number of internal health and fitness initiatives since January 2016 in the hopes of getting staff to live a healthy lifestyle. Photo by: Jenny Lei Ravelo / Devex

Meetings are frequent and can stretch for hours at the World Health Organization’s regional office in Manila. A perk? Staff are often served snacks or meals to keep everyone focused and energized. Until just a few months ago, it was usually pizza loaded with cheese and washed down with sugary beverages. Sausage wrapped in bacon was another favorite, according to Katrin Engelhardt, technical lead for nutrition at the Western Pacific office’s NCD and health through the life course division.

But things at the office — mainly cheesy, fatty, sugary things — are changing.

Late last month, during a brown bag on climate change and its health impacts in the region, staff members were noshing on a lunch of pesto pasta, chicken, baked garlic bread, a serving of fruit and unsweetened watermelon juice.

Right outside the conference hall, a round pink sign screams from beside an elevator: “No time for exercise? TAKE THE STAIRS!”

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About the author

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Jenny Lei Ravelo@JennyLeiRavelo

Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex senior reporter based in Manila. Since 2011, she has covered a wide range of development and humanitarian aid issues, from leadership and policy changes at DfID to the logistical and security impediments faced by international and local aid responders in disaster-prone and conflict-affected countries in Africa and Asia. Her interests include global health and the analysis of aid challenges and trends in sub-Saharan Africa.

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