'Walking the Talk' in Central Park

The World Health Organization and partners will kick-start the United Nations General Assembly with a free walk/run on Sunday

Sep 16 2019 | 11:43 AM

Thousands of diplomats, politicians and New Yorkers are expected to “walk the talk” this Sunday in Central Park in a show of support for next week’s meeting of the United Nations General Assembly – or UNGA.

“Walk the Talk: The Health for All Challenge” is being hosted by the World Health Organization in collaboration with the UN, the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs and other partners on the eve of two meetings, each of which has major implications for the health of people around the world.

“Today, instead of health for all, we have health for some,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO). “We have a responsibility to ensure access to primary health care, which enables every person, everywhere to exercise their fundamental right to health.”

On September 23, debate at the United Nations will center on how the world’s leaders should respond to the existential threat posed by climate change; that same day, the world body will host a high-level meeting on universal health coverage.

Making progress on either topic is not likely to be a walk in the park.

But discussion of both might benefit from one.

That’s why, on Sunday, September 22, WHO and partners are hosting a four-mile walk/run in Central Park. The goal: to provide diplomats, political leaders and New Yorkers with a healthy kick start to the week’s events and to focus attention on the following day’s debates.

Unlike nearly all other “fun” runs in Central Park, this one is free.

Participants are invited to begin arriving after 7 a.m. near the start (and end) point just inside the eastern edge of the park at 102nd Street and Fifth Avenue. There, they will warm up to music – first from a Caribbean ensemble and then from Ricky Kej and his band. The Grammy Award-winning Indian composer and producer is also an environmentalist.

WHO has hosted similar events at its headquarters in Geneva and in other cities that, together, have attracted tens of thousands of participants. “All around the world, people are walking the talk for health for all,” said Dr Tedros.

Sunday’s event is the first one to be held in the United States. “Now, we are taking this challenge to New York,” Dr Tedros said.

The first two thousand registrants will receive a T-shirt and handouts from sponsors.

Beginning at 8:30 a.m., health issues will be addressed by speakers, including Dr Tedros; Cynthia Germanotta, WHO’s goodwill ambassador for mental health (and the mother of Lady Gaga); Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, mayor of Freetown, Sierra Leone; and the first lady of New York, Chirlane McCray.

The walk/run begins at 9 a.m. sharp and will loop westward and southward from 102nd Street and then back. People of all ages and abilities are welcome.

Upon completion of the route, participants will be able to walk through a dozen booths, each stuffed with health messages, participate in family-fun activities and enjoy health snacks.

At 10:30 a.m., in a closing ceremony, speakers will address the issues that UNGA attendees will grapple with during the coming week. These speakers will include Dr Vytenis Andriukaitis, health commissioner of the European Union; Penny Abeywardena, New York City commissioner for international affairs; and Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, former WHO director-general.

“It is an honor to join WHO and partners from around the world in the ‘Walk the Talk’ New York event, which I believe will send a powerful message on the importance of health for all and the critical need for partnership to ensure this happens,” said Brundtland. In addition to being a champion of public health and the environment, she is a founding member of The Elders, an organization founded by the late Nelson Mandela that works for peace, justice and human rights.

“Join us on Sunday, the 22nd of September, as we come together in Central Park, to dance, walk and run, for health for all,” Tedros said. “I’ll be there and I hope you will be, too.”

For more information and to register, go to: https://www.who.int/walk-the-talk-2019-new-york

“Today, instead of health for all, we have health for some.” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO).