October 16, 1996

Media Contacts: Sarah Goodwin, 404/727-3366 -
Kathi Ovnic, 404/727-9371 -

Mayors of cities in America and around the world attended the 40th annual meeting of Sister Cities International in Boston to discuss the eradication of hidden hunger worldwide.

Hidden hunger, or micronutrient malnutrition, is an insidious form of malnutrition that leaves seemingly well-fed persons deficient in essential nutrients like iron, iodine and vitamin A. Without these vitamins and minerals, physical and cognitive development may be significantly impaired. Children and pregnant women are most at risk for hidden hunger's ill effects.

"Hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games has been a true exercise in teamwork," Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell said. "It took a committed group of community leaders, volunteers, businesses and government agencies to bring the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games to Atlanta. The members of Sister Cities will be undertaking a similar effort in their first global health campaign: the International Hidden Hunger Initiative."

Participating members "...will team up with cities, local schools, industries and civic groups to develop ways to make these needed nutrients available to our young people, ensuring that our children will have the tools needed to compete in today's competitive environment," Mayor Campbell said.

Sister Cities' Hidden Hunger team has partnered with the Program Against Micronutrient Malnutrition (PAMM) based at Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health. Since its inception in 1990, PAMM has been instrumental in orchestrating the following milestones: iodine deficiency has nearly been eliminated as a public health problem in Bolivia and Ecuador; national advocacy meetings have been organized in 24 countries which have resulted in substantial increases in national budgets for iodine deficiency elimination programs; and heads of state have made specific commitments to programs in at least 10 countries.

Supplementing the food supply of malnourished populations is difficult and can only occur when public and private sectors collaborate, says PAMM's director, Glen Maberly, M.D., chairman of International Health, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University. Developing partnerships with groups as influential as Sister Cities International makes the whole process easier, he says, since Sister Cities already has forged bonds among governments, businesses, academia and private citizens around the world.

"Hidden hunger is not a major health problem in the United States because many common foods such as cereal, milk, pasta and iodized salt are fortified," Dr. Maberly said. "School lunches, WIC (Women, Infants and Children Program) and other programs administered in American cities in cooperation with other government agencies, private food companies and local, nonprofit volunteer groups protect children and their mothers from micronutrient deficiencies."

Organizing partnerships is something city governments across the United States are good at, said Richard G. Neuheisel, president of Sister Cities International. It is something to be shared among Sister Cities partners -- and to perhaps provide business opportunities for local industries, educational opportunities for children, and allow government and civic action groups to learn innovative ways for mobilizing communities, he says.

"Our experience with the Centennial Olympic Games and Paralympics has taught us here in Atlanta that a committed team working together can achieve almost anything," Mayor Campbell said. "And while eliminating Hidden Hunger doesn't mean every child will be an Olympic athlete, it will give each a chance to compete in the game of life."

Atlanta's Sister Cities:
  • Brussels, Belgium
  • Bucharest, Romania
  • Daegu, Korea
  • Lagos, Nigeria
  • Montego Bay, Jamaica
  • Newcastle, England
  • Port of Spain, Trinidad
  • Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  • Salzberg, Austria
  • Taipei, Republic of China
  • Toulouse, France

For more general information on The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center, call Health Sciences News and Information at 404-727-5686, or send e-mail to

Copyright ©Emory University, 1996. All Rights Reserved.
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