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Centre for Food Policy hosts UK launch of 2018 Global Nutrition Report

Professor Corinna Hawkes is co-chair of the report and one of the lead authors

by Ed Grover

The Centre for Food Policy at City, University of London has hosted the UK launch of the 2018 Global Nutrition Report.

Professor Corinna Hawkes, who is Director of the centre and co-chair of the report, said new figures showed malnutrition was causing more ill-health around the world than anything else.

A third of reproductive-age women are anaemic, while 39 per cent of the world’s adults are overweight or obese and each year around 20 million babies are born underweight.

Professor Hawkes was joined at the UK launch by speakers including Alistair Burt MP, Minister of State for International Development, and Dr Johanna Ralston, CEO of the World Obesity Federation.

She said: “The figures call for immediate action. Malnutrition is responsible for more ill-health than any other cause.

"The health consequences of overweight and obesity contribute to an estimated four million deaths, while undernutrition explains around 45 per cent of deaths among children under five.

"The uncomfortable question is not so much ‘why are things so bad?’ but ‘why are things not better when we know so much more than before?’

Malnutrition costing $3.5 trillion a year

Now in its fifth edition, the Global Nutrition Report is the world’s most comprehensive report on nutrition and highlights the worrying prevalence and universality of malnutrition in all its forms.

The 2018 report was launched at an international event in Bangkok, Thailand, before the UK launch at City, which was that latest in the Centre for Food Policy’s Food Thinkers seminar series.

According to the report, slow progress on malnutrition is impacting the social and economic development of countries. It is estimated that malnutrition in all its forms could cost society up to US$3.5 trillion per year, with overweight and obesity alone costing US$500 billion per year.

Dr Jessica Fanzo of Johns Hopkins University, co-chair of the report and a speaker at the City event, said: “While malnutrition is holding back human development everywhere, costing billions of dollars a year, we are now in a position to fight it.

"From policies such as sugar taxes, to new data that enables us to understand what people are eating and how we can best target interventions, the global community now has the recipes that work.”

Significant steps are being made to address malnutrition, according to the report. Globally, stunting among children under five years of age has fallen from 32.6 per cent in 2000 to 22.2 per cent in 2017.

There has been a slight decrease in underweight women since 2000, from 11.6 per cent to 9.7 per cent in 2016. Yet, while there has been progress, it has been slow and patchy.

Most countries 'Significantly off-track'

The 2018 assessment of progress against nine targets reveals only 94 of 194 countries are on track for at least one of the nine nutrition targets assessed.

This means that most countries are significantly off-track on meeting all nine targets:

  • No country is on course to meet all nine targets.
  • Only five countries are on track to meet four of the nine targets – which is the most any country is on track for.
  • No country is on track to achieve the adult obesity target for men or women, nor reach the anaemia target.
  • Only 26 countries are on track to reach the target for women’s diabetes.

Henrietta H Fore, Executive Director of UNICEF, said: “The 2018 Global Nutrition Report offers forward-looking steps to strengthen the ability of global and national food systems to deliver nutritious, safe, affordable and sustainable diets for children.

“This paradigm shift – food systems that contribute to prevent malnutrition in all its forms – will be critical for children’s growth and development, the growth of national economies, and the development of nations.”

Read the 2018 Global Nutrition Report

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