Trade-offs, partnerships and policy inertia: Getting to grips with the Global Syndemic of obesity, undernutrition and climate change
Thursday 13th June, 7.00-8.30am
Saturnus Room (3rd Floor), Quality Globe Hotel
The Lancet Commission on Obesity challenged us all to think in Global Syndemic terms, focusing on the inter-relationships and policies for addressing obesity, undernutrition and climate change.
Forty representatives from government, UN agencies, civil society, academia and business gathered in Stockholm at a side event to the EAT Forum to discuss these issues. Participants were tasked with thinking about some of the challenging issues faced when seeking to get to grips with the Global Syndemic, with a particular focus on how civil society and others could break down silos, identify shared platform and engage the public.
In his presentation on the Global Syndemic, Boyd Swinburn noted that the Commission’s report called for a $1billion investment fund to support civil society catalyse action.
The following summarise some of the key themes that emerged through discussion:
If civil society had $1billion…
- Build on existing frameworks and platforms: Build on existing frameworks as points of collaboration, such as NCD HLM in 2025, Japan 2020, Food Systems Summit 2021, SDG 2030, Climate Action Summit, G20 etc.
- Engage communities: engage communities and people most vulnerable to malnutrition, capacity build, engage young people in a meaningful way – identify ways that they can co-create action at the community level and call for policy action nationally.
- Build and expand collaborations: Map the actors working across syndemic areas, expand networks and who is engaged in food systems, leverage existing partnerships, invest in connectivity, identify cross-pollinators who can work across silos and join up the dots.
- Develop new thinking and ways of working: Work together to create new frameworks for collective action, to break out of parallel thinking. Be prepared to reframe own messaging and focus on bigger goals.
- Refine and develop framing and messaging: synthesise and simplify messaging to get rid of the noise, go to where people are and frame messages accordingly, understand what appeals to people and work out how to talk about cross-cutting issues rather than just own issues, frame around cost of inaction, think like marketers and distil messaging right down.
- Channel citizen anger and state of disruption for a good cause: The system is rigged, channel anger for the greater good, for instance around industry power and food. Find a villain to build momentum around, for instance like plastic – ‘blue planet moment’.
- Understand and navigate political economy: Identify the levers, understand the political economy/economics of food, points of entry and motivations, incentives, use multinationals that are willing to change.
- Light a fire: How do we build the urgency needed to secure real change, and fast? Value of building on climate change, but still up against humankind’s inability to think about tomorrow’s problems. How do we highlight risks of inaction today.
- Create a strong roadmap of actions: co-create a roadmap of actions across syndemic areas, set targets goals that are measurable and tangible, make concrete recommendations and coordinate around these for strong accountability, work at multiple levels building on national work and city policies and disseminating learnings.
- Focus the attention on the plate: Since food systems are too nebulous, focus the communications and engagement on plates of food since that is what people can understand. Plates of food, meals and snacks can be characterised by their healthiness and their environmental footprints (‘plate-print’). An app or web interface could allow inputs of meals, foods, diets etc and get information on emissions, nutrition etc. This would be a process to engage consumers, capture dietary information and build up examples of plates which are healthy and environmentally sustainable. The data behind the app, with emission and nutrition data on certain food stuffs, could be tailored for different countries so that the plates would match specific contexts rather than be a generic plate.