Malnutrition—from undernourishment to obesity—is a global challenge affecting every country on earth and placing more than one-quarter of the world’s population at serious health risk. A new report released by The Chicago Council on Global Affairs highlights solutions to this critical threat to global health.
An independent advisory group wrote the report, members of which included Howard Buffet, president of Buffett Farms Nebraska LLC; Derek Yach, executive director of Vitality Institute; Andrew Jones, assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, Catherine Bertini, distinguished fellow of global agriculture and food at The Chicago Council; A.G. Kawamura, co-chair of Solutions from the Land Dialogue; Cynthia E. Rosenzweig, senior research scientist at Columbia University; Paul E. Schickler, president of DuPont Pioneer; and Food Tank president Danielle Nierenberg.
Two co-chairpersons led the group: Douglas Bereuter, president emeritus of The Asia Foundation and former member of the United States House of Representatives; and Dan Glickman, former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, vice president of The Aspen Institute, and senior fellow at The Bipartisan Policy Center.
Making nutrition a global priority could give billions more people access to the healthy foods they need to thrive, drive economic growth in poor countries, and increase the incomes of 2.5 billion small-scale farmers, many of whom are malnourished, according to the report.
“The Chicago Council is delighted to partner with Food Tank on this report,” says Lisa Moon, vice president of Global Agriculture and Food at The Chicago Council. “We know that only through collaboration and a focus by all those involved in the food and agriculture field can we make systematic progress toward fighting malnutrition.”
Malnutrition rates are on the rise, saddling economies with lower productivity and higher healthcare costs. Adults who were undernourished as children earn at least 20 percent less than those that were not, and a staggering 4–9 percent of most countries’ gross domestic product must cover the cost of treating those who are overweight or obese. By 2030 the global decline in productivity resulting from chronic disease could cost US$35 trillion. Sadly, more than half of the chronically hungry are small-scale farmers.
Additional highlights from the report include:
- The global food system can drive economic growth while delivering healthier diets for billions of farming households.
- Through collaboration and innovation, the agriculture and food sectors can reduce malnutrition.
- The global food system can lessen food waste and want while increasing food safety.
- Global investments in nutrition and agriculture by the U.S. can help build self-reliant and stable nations that are less likely to succumb to conflicts and humanitarian disasters—and create valuable trade partnerships with Asia and Africa.
- Climate change could have serious implications for plant nutrition, and for human health.
The report recommends four key actions for U.S. government—in partnership with researchers, businesses, and civil society—to leverage the agriculture and food sectors to improve national and global nutrition.
- Strengthen policies to support nutrition-sensitive food systems.
- Expand the research agenda for nutrition-sensitive food systems.
- Prepare the next generation of leaders in food and nutrition security.
- Develop public-private partnerships to support nutrition-sensitive food systems.
On April 16, 2015, more than 350 policy makers, corporate executives, scientists, and senior leaders from international organizations will gather to discuss the role of the agriculture and food sector in alleviating malnutrition. Bereuter and Bertini, along with Allison Aubrey, food and health correspondent for National Public Radio; Shawn Baker, director of nutrition for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; and the Honorable Dan Coats (R-IN), senior U.S. senator, will speak at the event, which will stream live at 8:30 a.m. EDT.