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Staff Spotlight: Vanessa Mello Rodrigues

Vanessa recently joined the Global Health Advocacy Incubator’s (GHAI) Food Policy Program as the Brazil in-country coordinator.

You started only a few weeks ago and already helped organize the year’s strategic planning meeting. What else are you looking forward to working on this year?

This was a particularly good time for starting at GHAI. Despite the fact that it can be challenging to start a new job in such a busy period like organizing the 2021 strategic planning meeting, it also gave me the opportunity to understand how things work, connect with people from the different organizations, and help them plan their activities for the year.

When thinking about the rest of the year, I am looking forward to seeing the topics we discussed during the meetings take shape. Our local partners are engaged in important activities to advocate around the need for higher sugar-sweetened beverage taxes, to promote regulations to improve school food environment both at the local and national level, and to promote the implementation of the front of package label regulation approved last year. These are all great objectives that make me feel enthusiastic about this year.

Before joining GHAI, you were part of the Alliance for Adequate and Healthy Eating in Brazil. What was it like working with them before, and what is it like working with them now in this new role as in-country coordinator with GHAI?

To be part of the Alliance has been a pleasure since the beginning. I was a member of NUPPRE, a research group that was focused on different food labeling aspects and in 2017s it became a part of the Alliance, which allowed me to be involved in many other important public health discussions and be part of such an amazing and enthusiastic network. I think this is the reason why being part of the Alliance in this new role is both pleasant and challenging. On one hand, the fact that I had already established several positive connections with people that are part of the organizations we support can make things much easier, as my relationship with them has been built over the years. On the other hand, it is a great responsibility to be in a position of supporting the actions developed by such an amazing group of people, and I am excited to collaborate and help as much as possible to the strengthen the Alliance.

How did you become involved with public health issues, particularly nutrition?

I have always been passionate about helping others, and studying nutrition was a way for me to do this. As part of my studies, I realized that thinking about nutrition through a public health perspective could be much more effective for improving people’s health, which I see as essential. Through the prevention of health issues and the promotion of health programs, individuals can spend more of their years in good health and really enjoy their lives. It is very motivating to think that the overall health of your community can be positively impacted by our efforts.

strong>What should others know about our Brazil advocates and the work they are doing on the ground?

Our Brazilian advocates have a great capacity of adapting to adverse situations and making the best of it, which makes them strong players in a field where it is sometimes necessary to reinvent ourselves in order to reach our goals. They have done an amazing job throughout the front of package label approval process despite a very unfavorable political scenario and have been great in collaborating with the Alliance to generate high quality evidence to support the implementation of our key policies. Our advocates are also great at monitoring political actions taking place that can influence our advocacy activities, either positively or negatively.

What’s something most people don’t know about you?

Many people think that I have always been extroverted, but I used to be very shy when I was young. When I was entering school, I began to tell jokes to hide my shyness and somehow this made me feel more confident when dealing with others.