The report highlights the changing burden of malnutrition and the need for urgent action to reduce obesity, end hunger and improve the health of all our children.
The report identifies the drivers of this malnutrition as globalization, urbanization and a broken food system. The consequences of these trends are being exacerbated by climate change, which is leading to increasing food insecurity, and increasing malnutrition in children. The links between obesity, undernutrition and climate were described as a ‘Global Syndemic’ and the paramount challenge for the 21st Century by The Lancet Commission on Obesity earlier this year. Both reports highlight the need to make fundamental changes to the food system if we are to improve the health of our population and our planet.
The report’s focus on the triple burden of malnutrition – underweight, overweight and hunger - highlights the extent to which food systems are currently failing to provide healthy diets for our children in every region of the world. The first global atlas on childhood obesity published earlier this month by the World Obesity Federation summarizes the increasing levels of childhood obesity globally, which is rising even in low and middle income countries (LMICs) previously associated with undernutrition. No country has more than a fifty percent chance of meeting their target for tackling childhood obesity by 2025, which is unacceptable and represents a serious threat to sustainable development.
The challenges faced by children and families in accessing healthy food are described through the presence of both food desserts, where access to fresh and healthy food is limited, and food swamps where the presence of unhealthy and fast food is disproportionately high compared to healthy food. Such irrational contrasts show the urgent need to reconfigure food systems, especially for the most vulnerable groups like children.
We congratulate UNICEF for this report and their focus on poor diets, presenting a clear case for improving food systems and addressing malnutrition in all forms through regulatory frameworks. The policy recommendations present in the report are a comprehensive guide for action. World Obesity welcomes the report and fully supports the focus on empowerment of young people and their families, as well as the need for regulatory frameworks to improve food environments.
Ellie Needs, World Obesity Federation
T: +44 7511 165 247