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EVENTS

Three-day international meet focuses on double burden of malnutrition
Friday, 30 March, 2018, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Our Bureau, New Delhi
The three-day international conference on the Critical Public Health Consequences of the Double Burden of Malnutrition and the Changing Food Environment in South and South East Asia is underway at India International Centre, New Delhi.

The meet is being held under the auspices of Public Health Resource Network (PHRN), People’s Health Movement (PHM-Global), Jan Swasthya Abhiyan (PHM-India), World Public Health Nutrition Association (WPHNA), Narotam Sekhsaria Foundation (NSF), International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India (BPNI).

It aims to raise and debate important issues that underlie the high levels of malnutrition (both under-nutrition and over-nutrition), especially those related to changes in food systems.

Over 250 participants, including policy makers, activists, practitioners, members of academia, researchers and media personnel from 13 countries, who have a significant role in shaping the food and nutrition policy landscape in South and South-East Asia, have gathered to share a common platform to raise and debate important issues that underlie these high levels of malnutrition.

The conference is expected to enhance collaboration among professionals engaged in various sectors, such as communicable and non-communicable diseases, nutrition, water and sanitation, dietetics, food sciences, agriculture, economics, environment, etc.

Under-nutrition, as well as over-nutrition, can be devastating to a nation’s overall health and productivity.

Both the menaces are responsible for a high degree of morbidity and mortality from communicable diseases such as TB, malaria, pneumonia and diarrhoea associated with under-nutrition, and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like diabetes, hypertension, cardiac disease and strokes, associated with obesity.

In fact, South-East Asia has the highest rate of mortality from NCDs among all WHO regions (62 per cent of all mortality, affecting 8.5 million people) and the second highest (after the African region) for communicable diseases.

While countries in South and South-East Asia have some of the highest levels of undernutrition, the region is also seeing a swift transition to a new situation termed as the double burden of malnutrition, whereby gains related to reduction in under-nutrition, are being undermined by an increase in overweight and obesity.

This, and several other issues related to nutrition, are being discussed by eminent speakers and government officials from a host of countries, including India, Brazil, Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States, Thailand, Bangladesh, Italy, South Africa, Malaysia, Nepal, Mexico and Switzerland through workshops, plenary sessions, panel discussions, poster presentations and meetings.

Seventy-two eminent people are attending the conference as experts. The keynote speakers include Carlos Monteiro, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil; Fiorella Espinosa, El Poder del Consumidor, Mexico, and P Sainath, People’s Archive of Rural India.

Vandana Prasad, national convenor, Public Health Resource Network, is the conference convenor.

The conference aims to connect evidence regarding the prevalence of both under nutrition and over-nutrition, as well as the associations between nutrition and disease, policy and programme responses.

It will look at catalysing civil society action to support community-based efforts to reshape the food and nutrition policy landscape.

The topics and themes to be discussed will include a wide range like laws and policies related to nutrition,  food systems, land reform and access to land, agricultural policies, food production and processing and their impact, role and regulation of agribusiness, food and beverages corporations and corporations which promote breast milk substitutes and infant formula, the current challenges and positive actions to address them, technical issues related to nutrition and disease consequences, strategising around advocacy and social mobilisation on issues related to malnutrition, and so on.

Said Prasad, “We are in the throes of a pervasive food insecurity and undernutrition, and also at the brink of an obesity epidemic. Both have dire consequences upon health and need to be tackled head-on with urgency.”

Seconding the opinion, Leni Chaudhari, vice-president, Narotam Sekhsaria Foundation, said, “This conference is bringing together policy-makers, activists, academics and researchers, who have a significant role in shaping the food and nutrition policy landscape in South and South East Asia. We will brainstorm and find ways to inform key policy makers and researchers of the latest evidence regarding the prevalence of both under nutrition and over-nutrition, as well as the associations between nutrition and disease, the drivers of these unacceptable levels of malnutrition and appropriate policy and programme responses.”

Arun Gupta, regional coordinator, International Baby Food Action Network – Asia, said, “This conference has at its core the aim of supporting effective development and implementation of policies and programmes that promote better public health, nutrition and the control of communicable and non-communicable diseases.”
 
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