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TalkingNutrition

Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals

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Public Health and (Mal)Nutrition: Societal, Ecological and Economical Opportunities

By Michael McBurney

In the preamble to Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010, Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius write, “Based on the most recent scientific evidence, this document provides information and advice for choosing a healthy eating pattern – namely, one that focuses on nutrient-dense foods and beverages, and that contributes to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.” As one reads on, they clearly state the Guidelines are intended to be the foundation for nutrition messages and government nutrition-related programs.

Although the Dietary Guidelines have been published every 5 years for over 30 years, fruit and vegetable consumption remains low in the US and other countries. Initiatives using whole-diet education strategies to increase fruit and vegetable consumption, and overall diet quality, of children have not proven effective (Spence et al., 2013). Children randomized to the intervention scored higher on an index (Obesity Protective Dietary Index, OPDI) but the differences among groups were non-significant. So what is the solution to motivate dietary and behavior change?

In an editorial, Choski and Stine suggest 5 options:

  1. Changing regulatory policy to create conditions that change unhealthy behaviors, e.g. trying to ban ‘excessive portions for sugary drinks’ in New York City.
  2. Encouraging public health advocates to adopt and/or adapt nutrition standards for lunches and snacks locally, state-wide, or nationally.
  3. Educating elected officials on the health costs savings which will be generated if they vote for investments in nutrition and health.
  4. Engaging with private funders to mobilize public opinion and drive government public health priorities.
  5. Encouraging physicians and health professionals to convey their experiences about the personal and societal costs of unhealthy choices.

All good ideas because we cannot want to live in a world with 2 billion people malnourished.  As DSM CEO Feike Sijbesma writes in Huffington Post, there is an opportunity to engage business because it has a unique ability and power to make the world a better place. The time is now for more public-private partnerships.

Together with governments we can save lives” – Feike Sijbesma, Huffington Post, Aug 21, 2013

Main Citation

Chokshi DA, Stine NW. Reconsidering the politics of public health. 2013 JAMA doi:10.1001/jama.2013.110872

Other Citations

Spence AC, McNaughton S, Lioret S, Hesketh KD, Crawford DA, Campbell KJ. A health promotion intervention can affect diet quality in early childhood. 2013 J Nutr doi:10.3945/jn.113.177931

Muthayya S, Rah JH, Sugimoto JD, Roos FF, Kraemer K, Black RE. The global hidden hunger indices and maps: an advocacy tool for action. 2013 PLoS doi:10.1371/journal.prone.0067860

Sijbesma F. We Need to Redesign our Economy. Huffington Post, Feb 1, 2013.

Sijbesma F. Time for Humanitarian Climate Change. Huffington Post, Aug 21, 2013.


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