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Preventing and controlling obesity can be a game changer for cardiovascular health.

The science is clear: obesity is associated with increased rates of cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality and morbidity. It also shares many social and economic determinants of health – income and educational levels, access to nutritious food, availability of transportation and conditions in the physical environment – with cardiovascular disease.

With rising rates of obesity and CVD worldwide, and global and national health systems shifting following COVID, acting on obesity has never been more important.

For these reasons, the World Heart Federation made “Time to Act on Obesity” the theme of the 2021 World Heart Summit.

By bringing together innovators, policymakers, academics, people living with CVD and/or obesity, health advocates and industry, the Summit will explore:

  • What role the cardiology community can play in preventing and managing obesity and CVD among people
    at-risk of or living with these conditions
  • How social, economic, clinical, and environmental factors collide in the doctor’s office leading to CVD and
    obesity, and what policymakers and health advocates can do about it
  • How the health workforce can most effectively address the nexus between CVD and obesity
  • How to make allies beyond the CVD and obesity communities to start turning the tide
  • What to do about commercial determinants of health, including marketing of unhealthy products
  • And how to tackle the continuum from malnutrition to obesity amid food insecurity, urbanization, and
    shifting diets in low- and middle-income settings


Adapting to the ever-changing COVID situation, WHF is planning a hybrid Summit format, with 3 global webinars between October and November 2021, culminating in a half-day hybrid meeting at the joint PASCAR – KCS Congress in Mombasa, Kenya, on 22 November.

The global webinars will each be followed by three regional, invitation-only webinars with practitioners, advocates, physicians, and people living with CVD and obesity in Latin America, Asia, Europe, and North America.

Click on the dates below to register for the webinars.


Prof Liesl Zühlke

Prof Amam Mbakwem

Global Webinars

­07:00­­ PST | 10­:00­­ EST | 16:00­­ CEST | 22:00­­ CST

This webinar will start the conversation about the role that the cardiovascular health community can play in preventing and controlling obesity. It will go beyond BMI to map the socioeconomic and environmental factors of obesity, hear from people living with CVD and obesity about their needs and challenges, explore how heart health professionals and advocates can make allies beyond their communities, and articulate key policy asks to take forward.

Register now

07:00­­ PST | 10­:00­­ EST | 16:00­­ CEST | 22:00­­ CST

This webinar will ask how the health workforce can do better to prevent and manage CVD and obesity by exploring the work of multi-disciplinary teams including cardiac nurses, nutritionists, community health workers, behaviour change communicators and experts. Issues around training, behaviour change interventions, regulations, and the prevention and management of obesity among health professionals themselves will be discussed.

Register now

07:00­­ PST | 10­:00­­ EST | 16:00­­ CEST | 22:00­­ CST

Innovative programmes and policies remain paper tigers without appropriate and sustainable sources of funding. Therefore, this webinar will ask how the taxation of unhealthy commodities can result in sustainable financing options for the prevention & management of CVD and obesity.

Register now


17:00­­ CEST | 10­:00­­ GMT-5 | 12:00­­ GMT-3

Leveraging food systems to prevent CVD and obesity

This regional webinar will bring together from experts in Latin America and the Caribbean to explore the link between cardiovascular health, obesity, and food systems, and to learn how local food systems can be transformed for better health outcomes for those at-risk of and those living with CVD and obesity.

Register now

08:00­­ CEST | 12­:00­­ GMT+5 | 15:00­­ GMT+8

Strengthening the health workforce to fight the nexus between CVD & Obesity

This session will take the insights from the global health workforce webinar and the expertise of experts from across the Asian continent and ask how national health workforces can be strengthened to prevent and manage obesity and CVD, especially in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact of those living with non-communicable diseases.

Register now

17:00­­ CEST | 10­:00­­ GMT-5 | 07:00­­ GMT-8

Taxation of unhealthy products to address Heart disease and obesity

Contextualizing the insights of the global webinar on taxation for health, this webinar brings in the expertise of policymakers, practitioners and health advocates in Europe and North America to learn how barriers to sugar taxes can be or have been overcome in their regions.

Register now


Registration will open soon

Welcome remarks by Profs. Amam Mbakwem and Liesl Zuhlke, World Heart Summit Co-Chairs

Highlights from the Global & Regional Webinars

This session will give the online and in-person delegates in Mombasa, Kenya, a snapshot of the key messages emerging from the global and regional webinars, inviting participants to build on those when formulating the Call to Action on CVD and Obesity at the end of the Summit.

Keynote Lecture

Africa, the new ground zero of the obesity epidemic: how did we get here and what can the cardiovascular community do about it? 

Obesity is a looming public health crisis in Africa, where eight of the 20 countries with the fastest-rising rates of obesity are. This session takes stock of the factors that contributed to the rise in obesity rates and explores how the cardiovascular community – cardiologists, cardiac nurses, societies, and foundations – can do prevent and control rising rates of obesity.

Parallel Breakout Session I

In their shoes: What can people living with CVD and obesity teach the cardiology community?

Obesity is a complex condition, as is the interplay between CVD and obesity. Understanding it requires understanding people living with CVD and obesity: what are their needs and challenges? What do they need from their physicians? And would people living with CVD and obesity want the cardiology community to know?

Parallel Breakout Session II

Changing diets, changing hearts: what can behavioural sciences and allied health professionals teach us in the fight against CVD and obesity?

Behaviour change interventions can be powerful tools in leading to healthier lifestyles and thus preventing and controlling obesity. Such interventions depend on multidisciplinary teams, including allied health professionals, and elicit interesting learnings that can be applied to CVD and obesity control. Africa is rich in successful behaviour change interventions and campaigns that can inform practice in the cardiovascular health community. Case studies from across the continent will be highlighted.

Panel Discussion

Shifting patterns of disease, still health systems. How can healthcare delivery keep up with the increased prevalence of NCDs in Africa?

There has been an epidemiological shift from communicable to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Africa, especially cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, yet health systems have been lagging in adjusting to these trends. This session will assess the main roadblocks to and identify solutions to ensure that health systems are prepared to address the needs of people living with CVD, obesity and other NCDs.

Call to Action & Closing Remarks

The closing remarks sessions will review the results of the Summit, including the key points and recommendations coming out of the panel and the breakout discussions, and put forward a Call to Action to policymakers, health professionals, and advocates and industry to prevent and control CVD and obesity.


Prof. Dr. Amam Mbakwem is a professor of Medicine at the University of Lagos and a consultant cardiologist to the Lagos University Teaching Hospital. She completed her residency training in internal medicine and cardiology at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital and received a Fellowship of the West African College of Physicians. She underwent further training in cardiology at the Wolfson Heart Institute in Tel Aviv, Israel and Azienda Sanitaria, Tuscany, Italy. Dr Mbakwem’s research interest includes Heart failure, systemic and pulmonary hypertension, heart disease in women, effective communication in disease management and the psychosocial issues in cardiovascular diseases. She is a member of the Nigerian Hypertension society guidelines writing committee. She is the immediate past President of the Nigerian Cardiac Society and a member of the European Society of Cardiology working group on Peripartum cardiomyopathy. She is the treasurer of PASCAR.

Prof. Liesl Zühlke, MBChB DCH FCPaeds Cert Card MPH FESC FACC PhD trained as a Paediatric Cardiologist in Cape Town and Dusseldorf, Germany. She has a MPH in clinical research methods, and her doctorate at the University of Cape Town provided new insights on outcomes of symptomatic and asymptomatic Rheumatic Heart Disease.

Prof Zuhlke is widely regarded as an emerging leader in cardiovascular medicine on the African continent. Her major research interests lie in Rheumatic Heart Disease and congenital heart disease. A paediatric cardiologist in the Dept of Pediatric Cardiology at RXH, she worked as the clinical co-coordinator of the ASAP programme, managing several large scale RHD projects in South Africa and on the African continent. In this capacity, she was instrumental in the development, coordination, and management of the largest prospective RHD registry the Rheumatic Heart Disease Registry (the REMEDY study) involving 25 sites, in 12 African countries, Yemen and India and is currently the national leader of the INVICTUS study, which aims to enroll over 30 000 RHD patients.

She has received a number of awards including an academic excellence award from Discovery, NIH Fogarty Fellowship, Wellcome CIDRI and Thrasher awards and the Hamilton Naki Post-doctoral Clinical Scholarship, an award given to clinical scholars of excellence. She is the immediate past president of the pediatric cardiac society of South Africa, President of the South African Heart Association and the chairperson of the Pan African Society of Cardiology Paediatric Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery Task force. She was one of the organizers of the 6th World Congress of Paediatric Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery 2013, the World Congress of Cardiology and Cardiovascular Health 2016 and is on the organising committee for the World Congress of Paediatric Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery in 2017. A previous board member of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa, she is now on the board of the Hatter Institute for Cardiovascular Research and is co-director of Rheach (Rheumatic Heart Disease-Evidence, Advocacy, Communication and Hope), the recipient of one of the largest grants from Medtronic Philanthropy for work in Rheumatic heart disease. The initiative will be providing scientific and technical support for Global RHD programmes over the next five years.

Dr Francesco Branca is the Director of the Department of Nutrition and Food safety in the World Health Organization, Geneva.

From 2008 to 2019, he was the Director of the Department of Nutrition for Health and Development. During this period, WHO has developed a WHO Nutrition strategy, established a new nutrition guideline development process and has developed a Comprehensive Implementation Plan on Maternal, Infant and Young Child Nutrition with six global targets. He has been leading the preparation of the 2nd International Conference on Nutrition and the Secretariat of the Decade of Action on Nutrition. Before that, in 2005-2008, Dr Branca was the Regional Advisor for Nutrition at the WHO Regional Office for Europe.

Between 1988 and 2005, he has been a Senior Scientist at the Italian Food and Nutrition research Institute where he was leading studies on the effects of food and nutrients on human health at the different stages of the life cycle and on the impact of public health nutrition programmes. He has been President of the Federation of the European Nutrition Societies in 2003-2007.

In 1985-1986, Dr Branca has been a medical staff of a Primary Health Care project in the South of Somalia ran by the Italian NGO, CISP

Dr Branca graduated in Medicine and Surgery and specialized in Diabetology and Metabolic Diseases at the Universita’ Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Roma and obtained a Msc and then a PhD in Nutrition at Aberdeen University.


Salim Yusuf, D.Phil, FRCPC, FRSC, O.C., is a Distinguished University Professor of Medicine at McMaster University, and Executive Director of the Population Health Research Institute. He holds a Heart and Stroke Foundation Research Chair, was a Senior Scientist of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (1999-2004), and has received (among others) the Lifetime Research Achievement award of the Canadian Cardiovascular Society, the Paul Wood Silver Medal of the British Cardiac Society, the European Society of Cardiology gold medal, the American Heart Association Clinical Research Award, and over 35 other international and national awards for research, induction into the Royal Society of Canada and Canadian Medical Hall of Fame, and appointment as an Officer of the Order of Canada. He has led over 50 major international studies in over 100 countries and several of these have changed medical practice. He has published over 1000 articles in refereed journals, was the second most cited researcher in the world for 2011, and has the 17th highest H factor in history.  He is a Past President of the World Heart Federation, where he has initiated the Emerging Leaders program to build capacity for implementation and policy research in all continents of the world, with the aim of halving the CVD burden globally within a generation.


Johanna Ralston has worked in global NCDs and their risk factors for over two decades.  She has served as CEO of World Obesity Federation since 2017, working to elevate obesity on the global agenda and to measurably improve and expand education, advocacy and care. World Obesity is the only global organization working solely in obesity and is in official relations with the World Health Organization. Over the past four years Johanna has overseen the new five year plan in partnership with volunteers, members, staff and key stakeholders.  The plan is built around global targets on obesity and focused on advocacy, convening, education and capacity building, and data and knowledge exchange.   From 2011-2016 Johanna served as CEO of World Heart Federation, the main CVD organization in official relations with WHO and a founder of NCD Alliance.  Johanna’s work included mobilizing the CVD community around the NCD agenda and WHO initiatives including the Global Action Plan on NCDs 2013-2020 and Global HEARTS, as well as a shared strategy to address rheumatic heart disease.  Johanna also served as Vice Chair, steering group member and Interim Director of NCD Alliance during that period, and promoted the expansion of national and regional alliances and the engagement of people living with NCDs.  From 1999 until 2011 Johanna was Vice President of Global Strategies at American Cancer Society, overseeing global advocacy and building the global capacity building program to strengthen community based cancer and tobacco control in LMICs.  She is also a fellow at Geneva Centre for Security Policy, leading the course on global health security. A dual citizen of Sweden and the US, Johanna is an alumna of Harvard Business School and studied public health at Johns Hopkins, after a first degree in literature.   She has served on many committees and boards includingGO2 Foundation (formerly the Lung Cancer Alliance), the WHO Civil Society Working Group on NCDs, the WEF Global Future of Health and Healthcare Council,  the WHO Expert Advisory Panel on Surgical Care, among others.  Johanna has published extensively including journals such as Lancet and British Medical Journal, popular outlets including Huffington Post and The Guardian, chapters in textbooks including the Global Health Handbook, and more personal pieces on her own journey of living with NCDs in Medium and other online platforms.


Dr Shifalika Goenka leads Bioethics and Social and Behavioral Sciences at Indian Insititute of Public Health Delhi, Public Health Foundation of India. A physician from TNMC, BLY Nair Hospital Mumbai, she works to prevent non-communicable diseases through multi-sectoral, multi-disciplinary and multi-level approaches; measure and enhance physical activity through multi-sectoral action, including built environment, worksite health, communities, national indicators for physical activity, environment and health promoting cities, and SDGs. Equipped with a combined epidemiological, medical (clinical) and qualitative research training she is sensitive to the interplay between medicine, built and social environment, as well as the social, economic, and political drivers of health and the environment. She has worked with different stake holders and a wide range of providers and populations and have intensive field experience working at the ground level and with marginalized communities and populations. Her PhD was an ethnography with private general practitioners especially those practicing in marginalized localities in Delhi. She teaches Non-Communicable Diseases and Public Health, Research ethics, Built environment for health, worksite health, Public Health Ethics and Law with high student ratings.  Dr. Goenka leads the Physical Activity program at the Centre for Chronic Disease Control (CCDC) – a WHO Collaborating Centre for Surveillance Capacity Building, & Translational Research in Cardio-metabolic diseases. She was commissioner on the Lancet Obesity Commission. 


Rebone Ntsie is a registered dietitian and she has BSc (Dietetics) from the University of the Western Cape ( UWC) and MSc (Dietetics) from MEDUNSA now Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University. She has worked in government, academia and private sector. She has more than 20 years of working experience in the nutrition field. She is currently the Director of Nutrition at National Department of Health, South Africa. She is passionate about public health nutrition and has interest in nutrition research for the promotion of health and prevention of diseases.  She is currently overseeing the review and update of the Strategy for the Prevention and Control of Obesity in South Africa and the development of the Obesity Social and Behaviour Change Communication strategy. She is also managing the National Dietary Intake Survey which will further inform interventions for the prevention and control of obesity in South Africa. She is leading the annual National Nutrition Week campaign which promotes healthy eating and prevention of all forms of malnutrition. This year 2021, she led the launch of World Obesity Day in South Africa in 2021.  She is a member of the national task team responsible for implementation of the National Food and Nutrition Security Plan which aims to significantly improve food security and reduce malnutrition in all its forms (including overweight and obesity) to afford South Africa’s people opportunities to lead healthy and productive lives.   


Dr. Tolullah Oni, a Public Health Physician and Urban Epidemiologist, is the Principal of the Oni et al. urban health practice and founder of UrbanBetter, a science-informed, equity-centred, Africa-led, youth-privileged movement applying a health foresight approach to generate new knowledge that supports partnership between science, policy and societal role players to health-proof the future of cities. She is a Clinical Senior Research Associate and joint lead of the Global Public Health research group at the University of Cambridge MRC Epidemiology Unit. She is also an Honorary Associate Professor in Public Health at the University of Cape Town where leads the Research Initiative for Cities Health and Equity (RICHE) group conducting transdisciplinary urban health research to support development and implementation of healthy public policies in rapidly growing cities in Africa.  Born in Lagos, she completed her medical training at University College London, postgraduate medical training in the UK and Australia, a Masters degree in Public Health (Epidemiology) at the University of Cape Town, and a research doctorate in Clinical Epidemiology at Imperial College London. She serves on several advisory boards including Future Earth and the African Academy of Science Open Research Platform; and is an editorial board member of Lancet Planetary Health, Cities and Health, and the Journal of Urban Health. Profiled in the Lancet (2016), Science magazine (2018), and the British Medical Journal (2019), she is a Fellow of the African Academy of Sciences, past co-chair of the Global Young Academy, 2015 Next Einstein Forum Fellow, and a 2019 World Economic Forum Young Global Leader.  She is passionate about identifying creative strategies to address complex urban population health challenges in rapidly growing cities globally to make the healthy choice the easy sustainable choice. 

Deborah Chen is the Executive Director of The Heart Foundation of Jamaica with 30 years’ experience in cardiovascular care and extensive experience in the field of tobacco control. She is a visionary and has been the driving force behind the continued growth and success of The Heart Foundation of Jamaica (HFJ). A State Registered Nurse by profession, she has a specialist certificate in coronary care and holds a Master of Public Health Degree from the University of the West Indies. Deborah is a founding member of and has oversight responsibility for the Jamaica Coalition for Tobacco Control which successfully lobbied for the passage of The Public Health (Tobacco Control) Regulations-2013 which became effective on July 15th, 2013. She is also the project director of the current Global Health Advocacy Obesity Prevention Project and a board member of the National NCD Committee in Jamaica and Co-Chair of the Tobacco and Alcohol sub committee.

She is a past Vice President of the World Heart Federation and former board member of the Healthy Caribbean Coalition; and is also a past board member of the Non-Communicable Disease Alliance. She is the current Vice President of the InterAmerican Heart Foundation (IAHF) and Vice Chair of the global NGO tobacco control group – the Framework Convention Alliance. She is passionate about public health and is very concerned about the inequities and injustices in our environment that contribute to the NCD epidemic in Jamaica, regionally and globally.


Ana Larrañaga is a Mexican nutritionist, with studies in Environmental Education, Diabetes and Breastfeeding Counseling. She has worked with Civil Society Organizations since 2013 to promote evidence-based public policy efforts for the prevention of diet related Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs). Other areas of her work include the promotion of clear front of pack labels for foods and beverages, the advocacy for sustainable food systems, and the regulation of unhealthy advertisement of ultra-processed foods and beverages aimed to children.

She directed Salud Critica, and coordinated the ContraPeso Coalition fron 2019 to 2021, this is a civil society advocacy platform focused in the prevention of diet related diseases and different forms of malnutrition. She was also a member of the Parlamentary Front Against Hunger in México. Currently she is a member of the NCD Child Young Leaders Program, and a Chevening Scholar studying her Master’s Degree in Food and Development at the University of Sussex in the UK.


Dr. Ada Cuevas attended medical school at the Faculty of Medicine of the Catholic University of Chile. Subsequently, she obtained a master’s degree in Clinical Nutrition from the Institute of Nutrition and Food Technology at the University of Chile. In 1992, Dr. Cuevas obtained the Friends of the Center for Human Nutrition scholarship to pursue her postgraduate studies in Nutrition and Metabolism at the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Texas, Southwestern Medical Center, in Dallas, Texas USA. Between 1995 and 2003, she was a professor at the Department of Nutrition, Diabetes, and Metabolism at the Catholic University of Chile. Subsequently, she worked in the Nutrition Department of Clínica Las Condes, being the head of this department between 2004 and 2015.

In 2012, she received recognition from the World Obesity Federation (WOF)  as International Fellowship, which is awarded to experts in the obesity area worldwide. Additionally, Dr. Ada Cuevas is currently a member of the SCOPE (Specialist Certification of Obesity Professional Education) International Executive Committee, dedicated to the education and accreditation of health professionals in the management of obesity. Between 2009 and 2015, she served as director of the Committee for America of the International Atherosclerosis Society (IAS), currently working as a Senior Advisory Board member for this Society. She also founded the Chilean Atherosclerosis Working Group, a Chilean affiliate of the IAS. Dr. Cuevas has published numerous national and international scientific articles, as well as book chapters. She is also an associate editor of leading international scientific journals in her field, including the Journal of Lipid Research, the Current Atherosclerosis Report, and Clinical Obesity. Since March 2020, she carries out her clinical and academic work at the Advanced Center for Metabolic Medicine and Nutrition (CAMMYN) and the University Finis Terrae, School of Medicine in Santiago, Chile.


Dr. Hennis is Director of the Department of Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health, Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization. This Department coordinates activities on non-communicable diseases and related risk factors, nutrition, violence and injuries, road safety, disabilities, and mental health and illicit substance use throughout the Americas. He graduated in Medicine from the University of the West Indies (UWI), and qualified in Internal Medicine in the UK. Dr. Hennis was Wellcome Trust Clinical Epidemiology Fellow and obtained MSc and PhD degrees in Epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University of London. He has been Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at the University of the West Indies, and Research Associate Professor in Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University, NY. Dr. Hennis has worked to tackle NCDs through clinical practice, teaching, research and publication, working with civil society, and through public health practice.

Arianne Alcorta is a Venezuelan-Spanish award-winning journalist with a strong track record moderating panels, reporting live on-air, and producing news videos and viral web documentaries for television and the web.



At its events, the World Heart Federation enables focused conversations leading to innovations and decisions, which will change the lives of patients, health providers, and every single one of us.

Running since 2016, the annual World Heart Summit (previously the Global Summit for Circulatory Health) convenes leaders and innovators who drive action for cardiovascular health. The Summit is an invitation-only event where government, civil society, industry, and academia share, learn and decide what is next for the prevention and control of cardiovascular disease at a global level.

Previous editions have explored key issues such as access to essential medicines, innovations in technology, and the role of the workforce in cardiovascular health.