The Global Health Advocacy Incubator is pleased to welcome Wubshet Loha as its Cardiovascular Health program’s new advocacy associate director for Africa.
Loha brings a wealth of experiences to his new role, having worked on global health, food and nutrition issues for more than a decade with international development organizations like Bread for the World, Action Against Hunger and Save the Children. He has led humanitarian and development programs in Ethiopia, Jordan and Yemen.
Your background is in public health, nutrition and policy. What drew you to this work?
I come from a rural village in southern Ethiopia where we had limited access to many basic services such as nutrition, health, education, clean water. I have seen firsthand both the struggles and the resilience of people, so I wanted to advocate for the policies and programs that will improve access to these basic services. As a service provider, I learned that many health and nutrition problems are preventable and can be addressed beyond short-term, quick-fix solutions and rather through public policy. Further studies in public health and policy equipped me with the skills and knowledge needed to analyze nutrition problems and propose pragmatic solutions that are right for a specific context.
You have worked on a variety of health and nutrition projects. What accomplishment are you particularly proud of?
I am proud of our global nutrition advocacy work I did with Bread for the World. I was involved in pushing for a nutrition resolution that passed both the United States House and the Senate. It’s a non-binding resolution; however, it helped us elevate the issue in a political agenda. Additionally, I learned a lot about DC’s advocacy environment: the importance of evidence and coalition building, engaging lawmakers and cultivating champions, grassroots organizing and working with faith communities.
What is the most important lesson you have learned advocating for food and health policies?
I understand that the process of building consensus can be challenging, but I learned the importance of cooperation and advocates working together across sectors to achieve incremental change. I repeatedly noticed a “prisoner’s dilemma” where food and health policy advocates are incentivized to compete rather than cooperate even though they are more likely to influence a change working together.
What are you most excited about in your new role with GHAI?
I am excited about this role for two reasons. First, I wanted to take part in efforts to improve cardiovascular health in Africa, including by eliminating industrially produced trans fat. Knowing that many countries lack policies and regulations to address issues caused by unhealthy diet-related factors is a new and engaging challenge for me. Second, I am a strong believer in locally led change. And this role gives me an opportunity to support country-based civil society organizations working to influence policy and regulatory changes.
What is your message to food and health advocates in Africa and around the world?
Advocacy is a long-distance run, not a sprint and it is important to amplify small wins and build on those wins. And to continue to build relationships and utilize evidence and all the media tools to reach policymakers and the broader public to effect policy change! Our ultimate goal is ensuring that everyone has access to affordable and healthy food and health services.