Obesity, starvation and climate change are interrelated pandemics. According to a report released by the Lancet Commission, the world needs to come up with solutions and systemic fixes for these.
The Lancet Commission consists of a group of 43 experts from 14 countries with a broad range of expertise recruited by the journal, has tackled the topic with high-profile reports in 2011 and 2015. But the problem is getting worse.
The obesity levels in countries do not see any decline. The report says this is driven by profit influence policy of powerful companies and are at “odds with the public good and planetary health,”. The report calls it a global syndemic.
A syndemic is “a synergy of pandemics that co-occur,” interact and share common causes. These three pandemics represent the “paramount challenge for humans, the environment and our planet.”
Together, obesity and malnutrition are the biggest cause of premature death. Globally, more than 2 billion adults and children are overweight or obese and have health problems because of it, research shows. People don’t or can’t exercise, and that’s the fourth leading risk factor for death.
On the other hand, the world hunger is on a steady increase for the third consecutive year. Two billion struggle with micronutrient deficiencies, and 815 million are chronically undernourished, the report says.
Due to food shortages, the world could see a net increase of 529,000 adults deaths by 2050, research claimed.
“Trying to prevent malnutrition, obesity, and unsustainable agricultural practices has been impossible in the face of food industry opposition to public health measures that might reduce product sales,” said Marion Nestle, a food policy researcher at New York University, who was not involved in the study. “This report makes it clear that governments must act to curb food industry practices that promote poor health and damage the environment.”
“In reality, [obesity and undernutrition] are both driven by the same unhealthy, inequitable food systems, underpinned by the same political economy that is single-focused on economic growth and ignores the negative health and equity outcomes,” said the co-chair of the report, professor Boyd Swinburn of the University of Auckland, in a statement.
The report authors call for an international treaty: A “Framework Convention on Food Systems” would be a legal framework that binds countries to create food systems that promote health and environmental sustainability.
We need solutions that help one could help the other. For example, if governments invest more in public transportation, that will make it more convenient and affordable for people to get to jobs that put food on the table. Those who drive less and take public transportation more often get more exercise and, studies show, tend not to be obese. If fewer people drove cars, there would also be less greenhouse gas to contribute to climate change.