Updated: Feb 4, 2021
Learnings from the 5th NNEdPro Summer School in Applied Human Nutrition
Key Contributors: Breanna Lepre, Mayara De Paula, and Diptimayee Jena
Acknowledgement: 2020 Summer School cohort
Poor diet is associated with an increased risk of morbidity and mortality, with 11 million deaths in 2017 attributable to diet-related risk factors . The double burden of malnutrition, characterised by the coexistence of undernutrition along with overweight and obesity, or diet-related noncommunicable diseases, has global implications for health, the environment and the economy. In 2015, 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted by United Nations (UN) member states as a universal call to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure peace and prosperity by 2030 . One key goal was to achieve “Zero Hunger” and alongside the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition 2016-2025 report , this represents a significant commitment to eliminate all forms of malnutrition by 2030. The UN Decade of Family Farming, 2019-2028 (UNDFF) is aimed at strengthening family farming practices to achieve sustainable food systems that meet SDGs in an inclusive, collaborative and coherent way .
Despite some progress made towards achieving SDGs, the prevalence of malnutrition is increasing . Globally, almost 1 in 9 people are undernourished , while 1 in 3 people are overweight or obese . Food security provides an important link between diet quality and health. Food insecurity is defined by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) as “when people lack secure access to sufficient amounts of safe and nutritious food for normal growth and development and an active, healthy life”. Food insecurity is on the rise, with over 2 billion people estimated to have gone without regular access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food in 2019 . The COVID-19 pandemic increased the risk of food insecurity, placing additional strain on existing food systems. In fact, the FAO predicts that the COVID-19 pandemic will increase the number of people who are undernourished from 83 to 132 million people . This is particularly concerning considering the importance of maintaining a healthy diet to support a well-functioning immune system .
There are many national and international agencies with a nutrition and health agenda, such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the FAO, mentioned above. The NNEdPro Global Centre for Nutrition and Health, is an award-winning, innovative think tank aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition (2016-2025) and the UN Decade of Family Farming (2019-2028). NNEdPro is committed to addressing all forms of malnutrition through education, research, and advocacy in nutrition-related aspects of health and healthcare systems. The 5th NNEdPro Summer School in Applied Human Nutrition took place in September 2020 as a virtual event and was co-organised with the School of Advanced Studies on Food and Nutrition of the University of Parma, Italy. The Summer School is accredited by the Royal College of Physicians and Royal Society of Biology and recognised by the International Union of Nutritional Sciences, through the provision of scholarships. The 2020 Summer School cohort brought together delegates from across the globe, spanning 24 countries in Asia, North America, South America, Europe and Africa. As part of course assessment, participants were asked to answer a timely and relevant essay question: “How far do we have to go towards ending malnutrition in all its forms by 2030?”
The essay responses were insightful and provided interesting and varied solutions to ending malnutrition in all its forms by 2030. Some of the essay responses were related to the use of digital technologies to transform food systems to deliver affordable, healthy diets for all.
“agricultural development programmes that encourage diversification and consumption of home-produced foods and also increase food affordability could be carried out using mobile apps, workshops, and data dissemination using digital networking.” Sneha Deshpande
“The Covid-19 pandemic has ushered in a new era where innovative strategies must be employed to overcome the challenges traditional methods of intervention contend within what is now described as the ‘new normal’… Artificial intelligence (A.I.) can increase learning capacity and provide decision-making support systems to help healthcare providers identify and better manage patients who are more at risk for malnutrition.” Maureen Maduagwu
“Technology is constantly advancing, and telemedicine systems could not only be used to provide specialist nutritional care to remote areas but also to aid in distance learning and the training of healthcare professionals further afield. Using telemedicine would improve access to care and could have epidemiological benefits via tracking the spread of disease burden and different forms of malnutrition. This, in turn would increase accountability and highlight areas where further work needs to be done.” Karuna Tandon
Taking a sustainable approach, using resources readily available within the local region also proved popular as a strategy for tackling malnutrition.
“Millets are aligned to the principles of sustainable agriculture in strengthening local economies, providing nutritional security and giving recognition of the role of women in agriculture through a programme called ‘Odisha Millets Mission’ operating in one of the states of Odisha in India. ” Diptimayee Jena
Other essays focused on nutrition research and data that underpins decision making, evidence-based policy and practice for sustained change.
“focus should be on funding precision nutrition initiatives in which the community is equipped with precise data based on nutrition surveillance of their diet-related health status and economics” Tecla Coleman
“Creating effective and evidence-based interventions that include governance body, coordinating agencies, an institutional framework, and a data-sharing and communication system, taking advantage of the unprecedented opportunity that is the Nutrition Decade, is a viable strategy to achieve our title goal: eliminate malnutrition in all its forms by 2030” Pedro Alvez Soares Vaz de Castro
Whereas some suggested education as a way to improve workforce capacity and to empower individuals to make healthy and informed dietary choices. Healthcare professionals are particularly well-placed to provide dietary advice, due in part to the large number of individuals they come into contact with.
“There are strong links between nutrition, education achievement and economic development: early life and childhood nutrition interventions may play a key role in achieving education for all and contributing to a dynamic, productive and skilful workforce” Nicole Tosi
“Training in medical schools focusses on disease, but is overlooking the basics of nutrition, holistic care and preventing illness. Physicians need to have the ability to firstly recognise and then address...malnutrition for their patients” Claudia Mitrofan
A reoccurring theme seen from the essay responses was a focus on working collaboratively across multiple sectors, from the technology sector to farming and agriculture. This type of cross-collaboration provides opportunity to exchange knowledge and form networks to meet the goal of eliminating all forms of malnutrition by 2030. Ending malnutrition will have significant benefit for the health of the population and for social and economic development. The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the need to transform our food system, providing an unprecedented opportunity to implement scalable nutrition interventions for change. The NNEdPro Summer School in Applied Human Nutrition is one example of the potential for nutrition education to inspire change. One key factor to ensure the success of any new intervention is the commitment and investment from local government and policy makers, alongside consistent monitoring and evaluation. We cannot afford to wait any longer to make change – The time to act is now.
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