Discussing the Global Panel's Foresight report at WHO
- Chair: Dr Francesco Branca, Director of the Department of Nutrition for Health and Development at the WHO
- Dr Lawrence Haddad, Chair of the Global Panel Foresight Lead Expert Group, Executive Director, Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN)
- Prof Sandy Thomas, Director, Global Panel on Agriculture and Food System for Nutrition
Drawing from the Global Panel’s Foresight report “Food systems and diets: Facing the challenges of the 21st century”, the World Health Organization hosted an event for the Global Panel on 23 February 2017 in Geneva, to discuss taking a food systems approach to tackling malnutrition in all its forms.
Dr Lawrence Haddad, Executive Director of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), and Chair of the Foresight Lead Expert Group, emphasised the need to act throughout the food systems to improve diets. He described how the food environment, where consumers access food systems, was changing. For example, the consumption of ultra-processed food across all income groups was increasing, along with population shifts from rural to urban areas. Dr Haddad argued that policies to improve the demand for healthy food were essential to changing eating habits. Food systems need to be repositioned to encourage nutritious food choices.
The event Chair, Dr Francesco Branca, Director of the Department of Nutrition for Health and Development at the WHO, described the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition as a great opportunity for policymakers to address malnutrition and guarantee better health outcomes. Dr Branca stressed the importance of promoting investments in agriculture that are more nutrition sensitive. Dr Branca also pointed out the need to find a convergence between health and environmental challenges and promote healthy diets sustainably produced.
The audience asked the panel for practical examples of effective public-private partnerships beyond food fortification. Dr Haddad referred to the examples in the Foresight report, adding that in order to incentivise businesses, the public sector must be proactive and make a strong case for high-quality diets. He argued, presented with the right incentives, small and medium-sized enterprises will see benefits from investing in nutritious foods.
Looking forward, Dr Haddad noted that the High Level Panel of Experts (HLPE) of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) was publishing a report on nutrition and food systems later this year. This report will be complementary to the Foresight report and will focus on sustainability, political and economic issues, as well the role of the private sector.
Malnutrition in all its forms is a 21st century problem. This event called for urgent action to break down barriers across sectors to solve this complex problem. Unless policymakers act decisively to control overweight, obesity and diet-related diseases, as well as accelerate efforts to reduce undernutrition, all countries will pay a heavy price in terms of mortality, physical health, mental well-being, economic losses, and degradation of the environment.
The Global Panel will continue to work with the World Health Organisation as a key partner, and is committed to encouraging more engagement with key stakeholders to advance the nutrition agenda during this Decade of Action on Nutrition. The next Panel event will be hosted at the World Bank on March 16th 2017 in Washington D.C.