WHO, in collaboration with UNICEF, FAO and WFP organized the Leadership Dialogue on Food Systems for People’s Nutrition and Health at the first United Nations Food Systems Summit Stocktaking Moment (UNFSS+2) that took place from the 24-26th July 2023 in Rome, Italy.
With just seven years remaining to achieve the SDGs, the dialogue emphasised the world is off track to meet the global nutrition targets as the pervasive status of all forms of malnutrition persist. Alarmingly, 2.4 billion people suffer from food insecurity, while 670 million adults live with overweight or obesity. Already the double burden of malnutrition is negatively impacting the health and prosperity of future generations, with 478 million children aged under 5 impacted by stunting, while 145 million 5-9 year olds live with overweight/obesity.
Food systems which fail to serve people and the planet are a key driver of this burden. Although global food production of calories has kept pace with population growth, the common prioritization of quantity and profitability over nutritional value has meant healthy diets remain unaffordable for over 40% of the world’s population. At the same time, a surplus of availability of highly processed foods, which are often calorie-dense but nutrient-poor, contribute to the alarming rise in diet-related diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers. New forces – globalization, urbanization, increasing poverty and inequities, and climate and humanitarian crises – are compounding these food system challenges, posing critical barriers to delivering healthy diets for all and realizing the global nutrition targets to end malnutrition in all its forms.
“Malnutrition hampers productivity, increases healthcare costs, and hinders economic growth. By prioritizing nutrition within our food systems, we can reduce the burden of disease, enhance cognitive development, and unlock the potential of individuals, communities, and nations. It’s clear: investing in nutrition yields substantial economic returns.” – Dr Ailan Li, Assistant Director-General, Division of UHC/Healthier Populations
As world leaders gathered to take stock of the progress to transform our food systems and accelerate progress towards the 2030 SDG agenda, the Leadership Dialogue brought together representatives from Member States, cities, youth, academia, civil society and the UN system and emphasized the urgent need to place nutrition and health at the core of global food systems transformation. Speakers highlighted the far-reaching implications of our food choices on our health, environment and society, the importance of a common narrative for healthy diets and the great need to invest in nutrition and scale up policy action to yield health, planetary, and economic results.
“Healthy diets come in many different shapes, reflecting different cultures, traditions, preferences and practices but they all share key characteristics of supporting the highest level of health and wellbeing, promoting growth and development while preventing diseases”- Dr Francesco Branca, Director of the Nutrition and Food Safety Division, WHO
While sustainable transformation may require trade-offs, the benefits of integrated action are significant and should be a top political priority. The need for transformation was emphasized in the shared experiences and inspiring examples of action from Fiji, Italy, Kenya, Mexico, Norway and Yemen with the diverse array of countries highlighting the potential of globally applicable solutions to address the unique food systems challenges. Such solutions apply a systems approach that integrates nutritious food systems actions throughout government policies while protecting the environment. They also prioritize the implementation of strong, proven policy actions which address the availability of nutritious foods as well as the oversupply of highly processed foods and beverages high in unhealthy fats, added sugars and/or salt including fiscal policies, the regulation of harmful marketing, the protection and promotion of breastfeeding and front-of-pack nutrition labelling- in line with the WHO priority food systems for health policy actions.
The Leadership Dialogue emphasized the importance of aligning food systems with nutrition and health goals, taking a comprehensive approach involving various stakeholders, and prioritizing policies that benefit the well-being of people and the planet.
Our common ambition for this Leadership Dialogue is to have contributed to an increased understanding of the strategic importance of public sector actions to improve food availability and healthy food environments for better nutrition and health outcomes. True, sustained impact to end malnutrition in all its forms requires all stakeholders -governments, businesses, academia, youth, the UN system and consumers to support the right to food and deliver healthy diets from sustainable food systems for all.
More details and a full session recording are available here.
- Moderator: Francesco Branca: Director, Department of Nutrition and Food Safety, WHO
- Moderator: Abigail Perry, Director of Nutrition, WFP
- Moderator: Victor Aguayo, Director of Nutrition and Child Development, UNICEF
- Ailan LI, Assistant Director-General, World Health Organization
- Patrick Webb, Technical Advisor GLOPAN
- Greg Garrett, Executive Director, Access to Nutrition Initiative
- Karima Al Hada’s, Yemen SUN Planning and Liaison Specialist & ExCom Member, Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation
- Maximo Torero, Chief Economist, FAO
- Patrick Amoth, Director General of Health, Kenya
- Vatimi TTK Rayalu, Minister for Agriculture and Waterways, Republic of Fiji
- Simón Barquera, Director of the Nutrition and Health Research Center, Instituto Nacional de Salud Publica (INSP)
- Anne Beathe Tvinnereim, Minister of International Development, Norway
- Lilian dos Santos Rahal, National Secretary for Food and Nutrition Security, Ministry of Development, Social Assistance, Family and Fight against Hunger, Federative Republic of Brazil