Expert Profile

Ms Johanna Ralston
Position(s) CEO, World Obesity Foundation

Johanna Ralston brings 25 years of experience in global health and development, most recently as CEO of the World Obesity Foundation, former CEO of World Heart Federation and Vice Chair, NCD Alliance. A global leader in noncommunicable disease advocacy, Johanna’s accomplishments include launching the first ever capacity building program for cancer control organizations in low and middle income countries, strategic leadership of the NCD Alliance as Vice Chair and steering group member for six years, elevating CVD on the global agenda as CEO of the World Heart Federation, oversight of global tobacco control efforts at American Cancer Society including the first major initiative to receive BMGF support in Africa, and cofounder of Cervical Cancer Action and RHD Action, both multi-stakeholder alliances which successfully accelerated access and increased prioritization around cervical cancer and rheumatic heart disease.

In February 2011, Johanna was appointed CEO of the World Heart Federation, based in Geneva and with over 200 member organizations in more than 100 countries. She quickly launched a coordinated effort to elevate CVD with the UN through the United Nations High Level Meeting on NCDs in September 2011. Following the success of the NCD Political Declaration, Johanna worked with WHF members and NCDA to translate commitments into national policies, including ensuring strong language and time bound targets for CVD mortality reduction in the WHO Global Action Plan on NCDs 2013-2020 and the Sustainable Development Goals. Subsequent work has included supporting the launch of CVD roadmaps and working closely with the World Health Organization Department of Noncommunicable Diseases on coordinated efforts. Johanna also oversaw changes to governance and the development of a new strategic plan based on the WHO and UN agenda for CVD. Before joining the World Heart Federation Johanna was Vice President, Global Strategies at the American Cancer Society, where she was hired in 1999 to build the Society’s global programs, eventually developing and overseeing cancer and tobacco control projects in more than 30 countries, including American Cancer Society University and global advocacy that has contributed to the increased prioritisation of cancer and other NCDs at the UN and WHO.

Johanna’s work in development and global health has also included positions at New York University and International Planned Parenthood Federation of Latin America, where she served as Program Development Adviser. Johanna has written on NCDs and other health matters for Lancet, Global Heart, Cardiovascular Journal of Africa, Huffington Post, and many other journals. Johanna has served on numerous advisory boards and expert groups for the World Health Organization, World Economic Forum, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and Lancet, and has spoken at numerous global sessions with heads of state and health ministers, including events at the United Nations, World Economic Forum, Capitol Hill (US Congress) and the World Health Organization. Johanna studied at Harvard Business School and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. A citizen of Sweden and the United State, Johanna speaks English, Swedish and French, and is currently based in Geneva.