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Re: Nutrition-enhancing agriculture and food systems

Ms. Mandana Kooijmans The NCD Alliance, Switzerland
29.07.2013
Mandana

The NCD Alliance (NCDA) was founded by four international NGO federations representing the four major non-communicable diseases (NCDs) – cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory diseases, and diabetes – uniting a network of 1,000 member associations and a further 1,000 civil society organisations in more than 170 countries. NCDA echoes and fully supports the comments made by the International Diabetes Federation.

NCDs are the leading cause of morbidity and mortality, accounting for two out of three deaths and half of all disability worldwide. 80% of NCD deaths are occurring in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), exacting a heavy and growing toll on both physical and mental health and economic security. NCDs are related to both under- and overnutrition. Maternal undernutrition increases the risk of an infant developing obesity and NCDs later in life.[i] And overweight and obesity, including childhood obesity, are major drivers of the global NCD epidemic. At the UN High Level Meeting on NCDs in September 2011, UN Member States affirmed that NCDs are leading threats to social and economic development in the 21st century, and nutrition and agriculture as key issues in their prevention and control.[ii]

Nutrition is a cornerstone in the fight against NCDs, and population nutrition is a function of the food system. The global food system supplies the world with food necessary to sustain life, but it is also responsible for an influx of highly processed foods full of saturated fats, sugars and salt, contributing to the global rise in NCD prevalence.

We welcome the opportunity to contribute to the preparations for the Second International Conferences on Nutrition (ICN2) and this discussion on Nutrition-sensitive agriculture. In particular, NCDA acknowledges, welcomes and supports the Expert Paper contributed by Hawkes et.al.  “Leveraging agriculture and food systems for healthier diets and noncommunicable disease prevention: The need for policy coherence”.

Key Messages

  • Today we face a triple burden of malnutrition: undernutrition, micronutrient deficiency and overnutrition/overconsumption, often times in the same country, community or household.
  • NCDs are related to both under- and overnutrition. Maternal undernutrition increases the risk of an infant developing obesity and NCDs later in life. And overweight and obesity, including childhood obesity, are major drivers of the global NCD epidemic.
  • Globally, just under one billion people are undernourished, while two billion people are overweight or obese. 65% of the world‘s population live in a country where overweight and obesity kills more people than underweight. In 2011, an estimated 43 million children under 5 years old were overweight, with the majority living in low and middle income countries. 
  • Globalisation in the food system has enabled the great availability, affordability and acceptability of unhealthy eating patterns. This makes a significant and negative contribution to NCDs and their metabolic and behavioural risk factors, including overweight/obesity, and elevated levels of blood pressure and cholesterol.
  • Nutrition-enhancing agriculture and food systems are one part of the solution to malnutrition in all its forms, including poor quality diets associated with NCDs.
  • NCDA strongly supports the call by Hawkes et. al. that food and agriculture systems operate through “policy coherence”, and that policies for NCD prevention “directly interface with agriculture and foods systems…”
  • Policies with particularly high potential impact on NCD risk factors are those that influence substitutions between different types of fat and meat, and make fruits and vegetables more available, affordable and acceptable.
  • Policies are also needed to discourage high-calorie, nutrient-poor foods, such as fiscal policies, taxation, and policies to significantly reduce the marketing of these foods to infants, young-children, adolescents and their caregivers.
  • NCDs are multisectoral issues, which require multisectoral solutions, including nutrition and agriculture. Civil society mobilisation will be crucial to creating and sustaining nutrition-enhancing agricultural systems.
  • More attention and efforts are needed from civil society and others to create policy coherence between agriculture policy and policies aimed at the nutritional risk factors for overweight/obesity and NCDs.

Please find our complete submission to this consultation attached.

 

[i] PD Gluckman, MA Hanson, C Cooper, KL Thornburg. Effect of In Utero and Early-Life Conditions on Adult Health and Disease. New England Journal of Medicine. 2008; 359:61-73

[ii] A/66/L.1 Political declaration of the High-level Meeting of the General Assembly on the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases. September 2011