On Tuesday 21st of August Dr. Elissa Mortimer presented a seminar at the Southgate Institute for Health, Society and Equity entitled Global public health work with a United Nations agency. Elissa discussed her experiences while undertaking an internship with the South Pacific Office of the World Health Organisation in Suva, Fiji. During the internship Elissa worked on projects related to Front of Pack Labelling and Health Promoting Schools. The Front of Pack Food Labelling project involved developing an implementation plan for labelling to be applied to processed and packaged foods. This is important since Fiji has recently seen an increase in the availability of such products, and consumer demand is growing. The Health Promoting Schools project involved analysing data from school students about their diet, their diet-related knowledge and their physical activity. The analysis showed that school students have a strong understanding of the relationships between food and health, and understand how high-fat and high-sugar food choices can impact their health. Despite this, consumption of high-fat and high-sugar foods remains high. This suggests that it is important to consider factors beyond personal choice.
Elissa explained that social and commercial determinants of health play an important role in shaping the diets of Fijians. Therefore, while initiatives to promote healthy choices are important, work to create health promoting environments is also necessary. Tighter food advertising regulation and expansion of Health in All Policies initiatives in Fiji to shape all policies in health promoting ways offer strategies for seeking future improvements.
Elissa is currently working as a Project Manager at the Global GI Health Unit, Flinders University, College of Medicine and Public Health and she is also a Doctorate of Public Health candidate.