At the global food conference,
UN officials sound the call for better global nutrition
Representatives of governments, multilateral institutions, civil society and the private sector met in Rome for the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) . The conference came 22 years after its first edition and, unfortunately, addressed the same unsolved problem.
Malnutrition, in all its forms, has repercussions on the capability of people to live a full life, work, care for their children, be productive, generate a positive cycle and improve their living conditions. Figures from the Global Nutrition Report estimate that the cost of malnutrition is around four to five percent of national GDP, suggesting that prevention would be more cost-effective.
With the goal of improving nutrition through the implementation of evidence-based policies and effective international cooperation, ICN2 produced two documents to help governments and stakeholders head in the right direction: the Rome Declaration on Nutrition and a Framework for Action.
The conference also heard a strong call for accountability and for the strengthening of nutrition in the post-2015 development agenda.
Flavio Valente, who represented civil society organisations at ICN2, remarked that “the current hegemonic food system and agro-industrial production model are not only unable to respond to the existing malnutrition problems but have contributed to the creation of different forms of malnutrition and the decrease of the diversity and quality of our diets.”
This position was shared by many speakers, who stressed the negative impact that advertising of unhealthy food has, mainly on children. Educating children about healthy habits and women who are in charge of feeding the family was recognised as crucial, as was breastfeeding, which should be encouraged (through paid maternity leave and breastfeeding facilities in the workplace), and the need to empower women working in agriculture.
Supporting small and family farming would also give people better opportunities to eat local, fresh and seasonal produce as well as fruit and vegetables, reducing the consumption of packaged, processed food that is often low in nutrients, vitamins and fibres and high in calories, sugar, salt and fats. However, teaching people how to eat is not enough, if they cannot easily access quality food – hence the need for relevant policies targeting the food chain and distribution.
Initiatives like the Fruit in Schools programme proposed by New Zealand go in the right direction, especially when implemented within a coordinated policy that promotes physical activity and a healthy lifestyle that fights consumption of alcohol and tobacco.
Source: Inter press Service, The Double Burden of Malnutrition
Related:Introducing the new food-based dietary guidelines website
FAO has launched a new website on food-based dietary guidelines (FBDGs) which will serve as a platform for information exchange on nutritional guidelines from across the world. The site currently holds a growing collection of FBDGs from more than 100 countries, and will be continuously updated as guidelines are created and revised.
Food-based dietary guidelines are intended to establish a basis for public food and nutrition, health and agricultural policies and nutrition education programmes to foster healthy eating habits and lifestyles. Using short, science-based positive messages on healthy eating and lifestyle choices, FBDGs inform the general public on which foods and eating habits will provide the nutrients they need to promote overall health and prevent chronic diseases.
FBDGs have become increasingly important as the world becomes more globalized and urbanized. Changes in food systems and in lifestyles have resulted in a shift in dietary patterns and loss of traditional food cultures in favour of quick meals and food products of low nutritional value. Because diet is so essential to health, FBDGs are an important tool to shape healthy eating habits and prevent diet-related non-communicable diseases (including type II diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and certain types of cancer).
Worldwide more than 100 countries have developed or are currently developing food-based dietary guidelines (FBDGs), with many revised at least once. FAO has supported a large number of Member Countries in the development and implementation of their FBDGs, through the organization of technical expert meetings, the publication of technical documents and the direct provision of technical assistance.
In the months and years following ICN2, these guidelines will help governments shape nutritional policies and nutrition education programmes to promote optimal health for their citizens and fight all forms of malnutrition.